Exosomes are excretory nano-vesicles that are formed by the cell’s endocytic system and shed from the surface of almost all types of cells. These tiny extracellular vesicles, once thought to be “garbage bags for cells,” carry a wide variety of molecules of cellular origin, including proteins, lipids, and RNAs, that are selectively incorporated during the formation of exosomes. Exosomes are now known to play a central role in several important biological processes such as cellular communication, intercellular transfer of bioactive molecules, and immune modulation. Recent advances in the field have shown that a number of animal viruses can exploit the exosomal pathway by incorporating specific cellular or viral factors within exosomes, in order to modulate the cellular microenvironment and influence downstream processes such as host immunity and virus spread. In this chapter, we provide an overview of our current understanding of exosome biogenesis and how this normal physiological process is hijacked by some pathogenic viruses. Viral components that appear to be selectively incorporated into exosomes and the potential role of these exosomes in viral pathogenesis are discussed. Identifying viral signatures in exosomes and their mode of action is fundamental for any future diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for viral infections.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system in which the body’s immune system is abnormally directed towards the myelin sheaths covering the nerve fibers. What triggers the neuroinflammation and autoimmune destruction of the myelin sheaths remains unknown. However, it is widely accepted that susceptibility depends on a combination of genetic and environmental factors and their interactions. With little chance of influencing genetic predisposition, the importance of identifying risk factors which could be modulated to either prevent the on-set of MS or to ameliorate the course of the disease, is an attractive alternative. An accumulating body of evidence, including our own recent study involving over 1000 MS and non-MS samples, indicates that Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a common herpesvirus, could be involved. In this chapter, we review the studies linking EBV to MS and propose an explanation by which this common virus could be involved in the pathogenesis of MS.
Part of the book: Multiple Sclerosis