Increased Release of Apolipoprotein E in Extracellular Vesicles Following Amyloid-β Protofibril Exposure of Neuroglial Co-Cultures

J Alzheimers Dis. 2017;60(1):305-321. doi: 10.3233/JAD-170278.


Extracellular vesicles (EVs), including exosomes and larger microvesicles, have been implicated to play a role in several conditions, including Alzheimer's disease (AD). Since the EV content mirrors the intracellular environment, it could contribute with important information about ongoing pathological processes and may be a useful source for biomarkers, reflecting the disease progression. The aim of the present study was to analyze the protein content of EVs specifically released from a mixed co-culture of primary astrocytes, neurons, and oligodendrocytes treated with synthetic amyloid-β (Aβ42) protofibrils. The EV isolation was performed by ultracentrifugation and validated by transmission electron microscopy. Mass spectrometry analysis of the EV content revealed a total of 807 unique proteins, of which five displayed altered levels in Aβ42 protofibril exposed cultures. The most prominent protein was apolipoprotein E (apoE), and by western blot analysis we could confirm a threefold increase of apoE in EVs from Aβ42 protofibril exposed cells, compared to unexposed cells. Moreover, immunoprecipitation studies demonstrated that apoE was primarily situated inside the EVs, whereas immunocytochemistry indicated that the EVs most likely derived from the astrocytes and the neurons in the culture. The identified Aβ-induced sorting of apoE into EVs from cultured neuroglial cells suggests a possible role for intercellular transfer of apoE in AD pathology and encourage future studies to fully elucidate the clinical relevance of this event.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid-beta peptide; apolipoprotein E; astrocytes; exosomes; extracellular vesicles; mass spectrometry; neurons; shedding microvesicles.

MeSH terms

  • 2',3'-Cyclic-Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases / metabolism
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Apolipoproteins E / metabolism*
  • Cell Count
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Extracellular Vesicles / drug effects*
  • Extracellular Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Vesicles / ultrastructure
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / cytology*
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Peptide Fragments / pharmacology*
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Time Factors
  • Tubulin / metabolism


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Proteins
  • Tubulin
  • amyloid beta-protein (1-42)
  • 2',3'-Cyclic-Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases