Extracellular vesicles: where the amyloid precursor protein carboxyl-terminal fragments accumulate and amyloid-β oligomerizes

FASEB J. 2020 Sep;34(9):12922-12931. doi: 10.1096/fj.202000823R. Epub 2020 Aug 9.


Pleiotropic roles are proposed for brain extracellular vesicles (EVs) in the development of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Our previous studies have suggested a beneficial role for EVs in AD, where the endosomal system in vulnerable neurons is compromised, contributing to the removal of accumulated material from neurons. However, the involvement of EVs in propagating AD amyloidosis throughout the brain has been considered because the amyloid-β precursor protein (APP), APP metabolites, and key APP cleaving enzymes were identified in association with EVs. Here, we undertook to determine whether the secretase machinery is actively processing APP in EVs isolated from the brains of wild-type and APP overexpressing Tg2576 mice. We found that full-length APP is cleaved in EVs incubated in the absence of cells. The resulting metabolites, both α- and β-APP carboxyl-terminal fragments and APP intracellular domain accumulate in EVs over time and amyloid-β dimerizes. Thus, EVs contribute to the removal from neurons and transport of APP-derived neurotoxic peptides. While this is potentially a venue for propagation of the pathology throughout the brain, it may contribute to efficient removal of neurotoxic peptides from the brain.

Keywords: APP metabolism; APP-CTFs; Alzheimer's disease; Aβ oligomers; exosomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism*
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Brain* / metabolism
  • Brain* / pathology
  • Extracellular Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Peptide Fragments / metabolism*
  • Protein Aggregation, Pathological


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor
  • Peptide Fragments