Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are released by many cell types, including neurons, carrying cargoes involved in signaling and disease. It is unclear whether EVs promote intercellular signaling or serve primarily to dispose of unwanted materials. We show that loss of multivesicular endosome-generating endosomal sorting complex required for transport (ESCRT) machinery disrupts release of EV cargoes from Drosophila motor neurons. Surprisingly, ESCRT depletion does not affect the signaling activities of the EV cargo Synaptotagmin-4 (Syt4) and disrupts only some signaling activities of the EV cargo evenness interrupted (Evi). Thus, these cargoes may not require intercellular transfer via EVs, and instead may be conventionally secreted or function cell-autonomously in the neuron. We find that EVs are phagocytosed by glia and muscles, and that ESCRT disruption causes compensatory autophagy in presynaptic neurons, suggesting that EVs are one of several redundant mechanisms to remove cargoes from synapses. Our results suggest that synaptic EV release serves primarily as a proteostatic mechanism for certain cargoes.

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