Small Extracellular Vesicles Secreted by Nigrostriatal Astrocytes Rescue Cell Death and Preserve Mitochondrial Function in Parkinson’s Disease.


Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are emerging as powerful players in cell-to-cell communication both in healthy and diseased brain. In Parkinson's disease (PD)-characterized by selective dopaminergic neuron death in ventral midbrain (VMB) and degeneration of their terminals in striatum (STR)-astrocytes exert dual harmful/protective functions, with mechanisms not fully elucidated. Here, this study shows that astrocytes from the VMB-, STR-, and VMB/STR-depleted brains release a population of small EVs  in a region-specific manner. Interestingly, VMB-astrocytes secreted the highest rate of EVs, which is further exclusively increased in response to CCL3, a chemokine that promotes robust dopaminergic neuroprotection in different PD models. The neuroprotective potential of nigrostriatal astrocyte-EVs is investigated in differentiated versus undifferentiated SH-SY5Y cells exposed to oxidative stress and mitochondrial toxicity. EVs from both VMB- and STR-astrocytes counteract H2 O2 -induced caspase-3 activation specifically in differentiated cells, with EVs from CCL3-treated astrocytes showing a higher protective effect. High resolution respirometry further reveals that nigrostriatal astrocyte-EVs rescue neuronal mitochondrial complex I function impaired by the neurotoxin MPP+ . Notably, only EVs from VMB-astrocyte fully restore ATP production, again specifically in differentiated SH-SY5Y. These results highlight a regional diversity in the nigrostriatal system for the secretion and activities of astrocyte-EVs, with neuroprotective implications for PD.