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EBioMedicine. 2019 Feb;40:626-635. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2018.11.067. Epub 2019 Jan 31.

Micro-RNAs secreted through astrocyte-derived extracellular vesicles cause neuronal network degeneration in C9orf72 ALS.

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Sheffield Institute of Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), University of Sheffield, 385A Glossop Road, Sheffield S10 2HQ, UK.
Sheffield Institute of Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), University of Sheffield, 385A Glossop Road, Sheffield S10 2HQ, UK. Electronic address:



Astrocytes regulate neuronal function, synaptic formation and maintenance partly through secreted extracellular vesicles (EVs). In amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) astrocytes display a toxic phenotype that contributes to motor neuron (MN) degeneration.


We used human induced astrocytes (iAstrocytes) from 3 ALS patients carrying C9orf72 mutations and 3 non-affected donors to investigate the role of astrocyte-derived EVs (ADEVs) in ALS astrocyte toxicity. ADEVs were isolated from iAstrocyte conditioned medium via ultracentrifugation and resuspended in fresh astrocyte medium before testing ADEV impact on HB9-GFP+ mouse motor neurons (Hb9-GFP+ MN). We used post-mortem brain and spinal cord tissue from 3 sporadic ALS and 3 non-ALS cases for PCR analysis.


We report that EV formation and miRNA cargo are dysregulated in C9ORF72-ALS iAstrocytes and this affects neurite network maintenance and MN survival in vitro. In particular, we have identified downregulation of miR-494-3p, a negative regulator of semaphorin 3A (SEMA3A) and other targets involved in axonal maintenance. We show here that by restoring miR-494-3p levels through expression of an engineered miRNA mimic we can downregulate Sema3A levels in MNs and increases MN survival in vitro. Consistently, we also report lower levels of mir-494-3p in cortico-spinal tract tissue isolated from sporadic ALS donors, thus supporting the pathological importance of this pathway in MNs and its therapeutic potential.


ALS ADEVs and their miRNA cargo are involved in MN death in ALS and we have identified miR-494-3p as a potential therapeutic target.


Thierry Latran Fondation and Academy of Medical Sciences.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Astrocytes; Axonal growth; Extracelular vesicles; Gene therapy; Neurodegeneration; miRNA

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