Extracellular Vesicles Taken up by Astrocytes

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Sep 29;22(19):10553. doi: 10.3390/ijms221910553.


Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are composed of lipid bilayer membranes and contain various molecules, such as mRNA and microRNA (miRNA), that regulate the functions of the recipient cell. Recent studies have reported the importance of EV-mediated intercellular communication in the brain. The brain contains several types of cells, including neurons and glial cells. Among them, astrocytes are the most abundant glial cells in the mammalian brain and play a wide range of roles, from structural maintenance of the brain to regulation of neurotransmission. Furthermore, since astrocytes can take up EVs, it is possible that EVs originating from inside and outside the brain affect astrocyte function, which in turn affects brain function. However, it has not been fully clarified whether the specific targeting mechanism of EVs to astrocytes as recipient cells exists. In recent years, EVs have attracted attention as a cell-targeted therapeutic approach in various organs, and elucidation of the targeting mechanism of EVs to astrocytes may pave the way for new therapies for brain diseases. In this review, we focus on EVs in the brain that affect astrocyte function and discuss the targeting mechanism of EVs to astrocytes.

Keywords: astrocytes; extracellular vesicles; miRNA; targeting mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / cytology
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Vesicles / genetics
  • Extracellular Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Microglia / cytology
  • Microglia / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / genetics
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Messenger