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BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Cerebral endothelial cells (CECs) and axons of neurons interact to maintain vascular and neuronal homeostasis and axonal remodeling in normal and ischemic brain, respectively. However, the role of exosomes in the interaction of CECs and axons in brain under normal conditions and after stroke is unknown.

METHODS: Exosomes were isolated from CECs of nonischemic rats and is chemic rats (nCEC-exos and isCEC-exos), respectively. A multicompartmental cell culture system was used to separate axons from neuronal cell bodies.

RESULTS: Axonal application of nCEC-exos promotes axonal growth of cortical neurons, whereas isCEC-exos further enhance axonal growth than nCEC-exos. Ultrastructural analysis revealed that CEC-exos applied into distal axons were internalized by axons and reached to their parent somata. Bioinformatic analysis revealed that both nCEC-exos and isCEC-exos contain abundant mature miRNAs; however, isCEC-exos exhibit more robust elevation of select miRNAs than nCEC-exos. Mechanistically, axonal application of nCEC-exos and isCEC-exos significantly elevated miRNAs and reduced proteins in distal axons and their parent somata that are involved in inhibiting axonal outgrowth. Blockage of axonal transport suppressed isCEC-exo-altered miRNAs and proteins in somata but not in distal axons.

CONCLUSIONS: nCEC-exos and isCEC-exos facilitate axonal growth by altering miRNAs and their target protein profiles in recipient neurons.

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