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Front Physiol. 2012 May 22;3:149. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00149. eCollection 2012.

Microglial microvesicle secretion and intercellular signaling.

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CNR Institute of Neuroscience Milano, Italy.


Microvesicles (MVs) are released from almost all cell brain types into the microenvironment and are emerging as a novel way of cell-to-cell communication. This review focuses on MVs discharged by microglial cells, the brain resident myeloid cells, which comprise ∼10-12% of brain population. We summarize first evidence indicating that MV shedding is a process activated by the ATP receptor P2X(7) and that shed MVs represent a secretory pathway for the inflammatory cytokine IL-β. We then discuss subsequent findings which clarify how IL-1 β can be locally processed and released from MVs into the extracellular environment. In addition, we describe the current understanding about the mechanism of P2X(7)-dependent MV formation and membrane abscission, which, by involving sphingomyelinase activity and ceramide formation, may share similarities with exosome biogenesis. Finally we report our recent results which show that microglia-derived MVs can stimulate neuronal activity and participate to the propagation of inflammatory signals, and suggest new areas for future investigation.


IL-beta; brain inflammation; microglial cells; microvesicles; neuronal activity

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