Environmental enrichment (EE) consists of increased physical, intellectual, and social activity, and has wide-ranging effects, including enhancing cognition, learning and memory, and motor coordination. Animal studies have demonstrated that EE improves outcome of brain trauma and neurodegenerative disorders, including demyelinating diseases like multiple sclerosis, making it a promising therapeutic option. However, the complexity of applying a robust EE paradigm makes clinical use difficult. A better understanding of the signaling involved in EE-based neuroprotection may allow for development of effective mimetics as an alternative. In prior work, we found that exosomes isolated from the serum of rats exposed to EE impact CNS myelination. Exosomes are naturally occurring nanovesicles containing mRNA, miRNA, and protein, which play important roles in cell function, disease, and immunomodulation. When applied to hippocampal slice cultures or nasally administered to naïve rats, EE-serum exosomes significantly increase myelin content, oligodendrocyte precursor (OPC) and neural stem cell levels, and reduce oxidative stress (OS). We found that rat EE exosomes were enriched in miR-219, which is necessary and sufficient for OPC differentiation into myelinating cells. Thus, peripherally produced exosomes may be a useful therapy for remyelination. Here, we aim to better characterize the impact of EE on CNS health and to determine the cellular source of nutritive exosomes found in serum. We found that exosomes isolated from various circulating immune cell types all increased slice culture myelin content, contained miR-219, and reduced OS, suggesting that EE globally alters immune function in a way that supports brain health.
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