Investigation of endocytic pathways for the internalization of exosome-associated oligomeric alpha-synuclein

Marion Delenclos, Teodora Trendafilova, Divya Mahesh, Ann M. Baine, Simon Moussaud, Irene K. Yan, Tushar Patel, Pamela J. McLean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Misfolding and aggregation of alpha-synuclein (αsyn) resulting in cytotoxicity is a hallmark of Parkinson's disease (PD) and related synucleinopathies. The recent body of evidence indicates that αsyn can be released from neuronal cells by nonconventional exocytosis involving extracellular vesicles (EVs) such as exosomes. The transfer of αsyn between cells has been proposed to be an important mechanism of disease propagation in PD. To date, exosome trafficking mechanisms, including release and cell-cell transmission, have not been fully described. To gain insight into the mechanisms involved, exosomes were purified from conditioned media of stable cells secreting asyn oligomers. A novel bimolecular protein complementation assay was used to detect exosomes containing αsyn oligomers. Recipient cells were treated with exosomes containing αsyn oligomers or "free" non-exosome-associated αsyn oligomers and internalization was monitored. We demonstrate that cell-derived exosome-associated asyn oligomers can be efficiently internalized by recipient cells. Interestingly exosome-free αsyn oligomers isolated from conditioned medium were not internalized but remained bound to the extracellular surface. To investigate the endocytic pathway(s) required for the exosome uptake different pharmacological inhibitors of caveolin-dependent, clathrin-dependent, and macropinocytosis pathways were utilized. Surprisingly, none of these pathways appear to play a significant role in the internalization of exosome-associated αsyn oligomers. Finally, the role of heparin sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) in exosome-associated αsyn internalization was investigated using genetic approach. Despite previous studies showing HSPGs can modulate internalization of fibrillar αsyn, genetic manipulations did not attenuate internalization of exosome-associated αsyn oligomers in our hands, suggesting that exosome-associated αsyn is internalized via an alternative endocytic pathway(s) that has yet to be elucidated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number172
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue numberMAR
StatePublished - Mar 30 2017


  • Cellular uptake
  • Endocytosis
  • Exosomes
  • Extra cellular vesicles
  • αsyn oligomers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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