Extracellular Vesicles: Pharmacological Modulators of the Peripheral and Central Signals Governing Obesity

Pharmacol Ther. 2016 Jan;157:65-83. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2015.11.002. Epub 2015 Nov 23.


Obesity and its metabolic resultant dysfunctions such as insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, dyslipidemia and hypertension, grouped as the "metabolic syndrome", are chronic inflammatory disorders that represent one of the most severe epidemic health problems. The imbalance between energy intake and expenditure, leading to an excess of body fat and an increase of cardiovascular and diabetes risks, is regulated by the interaction between central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral signals in order to regulate behavior and finally, the metabolism of peripheral organs. At present, pharmacological treatment of obesity comprises actions in both CNS and peripheral organs. In the last decades, the extracellular vesicles have emerged as participants in many pathophysiological regulation processes. Whether used as biomarkers, targets or even tools, extracellular vesicles provided some promising effects in the treatment of a large variety of diseases. Extracellular vesicles are released by cells from the plasma membrane (microvesicles) or from multivesicular bodies (exosomes) and contain lipids, proteins and nucleic acids, such as DNA, protein coding, and non-coding RNAs. Owing to their composition, extracellular vesicles can (i) activate receptors at the target cell and then, the subsequent intracellular pathway associated to the specific receptor; (ii) transfer molecules to the target cells and thereby change their phenotype and (iii) be used as shuttle of drugs and, thus, to carry specific molecules towards specific cells. Herein, we review the impact of extracellular vesicles in modulating the central and peripheral signals governing obesity.

Keywords: Extracellular vesicles; Obesity; Peripheral/central regulation; Pharmacotherapy; Targets; Tools.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System
  • Extracellular Vesicles*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / drug therapy
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Peripheral Nervous System