Sphingolipid-Enriched Extracellular Vesicles and Alzheimer's Disease: A Decade of Research

Michael B. Dinkins, Guanghu Wang, Erhard Bieberich

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Extracellular vesicles (EVs), particularly exosomes, have emerged in the last 10 years as a new player in the progression of Alzheimer's disease (AD) with high potential for being useful as a diagnostic and treatment tool. Exosomes and other EVs are enriched with the sphingolipid ceramide as well as other more complex glycosphingolipids such as gangliosides. At least a subpopulation of exosomes requires neutral sphingomyelinase activity for their biogenesis and secretion. As ceramide is often elevated in AD, exosome secretion may be affected as well. Here, we review the available data showing that exosomes regulate the aggregation and clearance of amyloid-beta (Aβ) and discuss the differences in data from laboratories regarding Aβ binding, induction of aggregation, and glial clearance. We also summarize available data on the role of exosomes in extracellular tau propagation, AD-related exosomal mRNA/miRNA cargo, and the use of exosomes as biomarker and gene therapy vehicles for diagnosis and potential treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)757-768
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the NIH grants R01AG034389 to E.B. and F32044954 to M.B.D. The funding agency had no role in the studies described from our laboratory or the decision to publish.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 - IOS Press and the authors. All rights reserved.


  • Alzheimers disease
  • amyloid
  • biomarker
  • ceramide
  • exosome
  • miRNA
  • sphingomyelinase
  • tau
  • vesicle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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