Extracellular Vesicles Containing IL-4 Modulate Neuroinflammation in a Mouse Model of Multiple Sclerosis

Mol Ther. 2018 Sep 5;26(9):2107-2118. doi: 10.1016/j.ymthe.2018.06.024. Epub 2018 Jul 5.


Extracellular vesicles (EVs) play a major role in cell-to-cell communication in physiological and pathological conditions, and their manipulation may represent a promising therapeutic strategy. Microglia, the parenchymal mononuclear phagocytes of the brain, modulate neighboring cells also through the release of EVs. The production of custom EVs filled with desired molecules, possibly targeted to make their uptake cell specific, and their administration in biological fluids may represent a valid approach for drug delivery. We engineered a murine microglia cell line, BV-2, to release EVs overexpressing the endogenous "eat me" signal Lactadherin (Mfg-e8) on the surface to target phagocytes and containing the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-4. A single injection of 107 IL-4+Mfg-e8+ EVs into the cisterna magna modulated established neuroinflammation and significantly reduced clinical signs in the mouse model of multiple sclerosis, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Injected IL-4+Mfg-e8+ EVs target mainly phagocytes (i.e., macrophages and microglia) surrounding liquoral spaces, and their cargo promote the upregulation of anti-inflammatory markers chitinase 3-like 3 (ym1) and arginase-1 (arg1), significantly reducing tissue damage. Engineered EVs may represent a biological drug delivery tool able to deliver multiple functional molecules simultaneously to treat neuroinflammatory diseases.

Keywords: extracellular vesicles; neuroinflammation; phagocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD11b Antigen / metabolism
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / ultrastructure
  • Cell Line
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Extracellular Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Vesicles / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Interleukin-4 / metabolism*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages / ultrastructure
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Multiple Sclerosis / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • CD11b Antigen
  • Interleukin-4