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Exp Brain Res. 1999 Jun;126(4):473-81.

Chemically, mechanically, and hyperosmolarity-induced calcium responses of rat cortical capillary endothelial cells in culture.

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  • 1Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology, University of Ghent, Belgium.


The purpose of the present work was to characterize calcium responses of brain-capillary endothelial cells (BCEC), the cells forming the blood-brain barrier, to chemical, hyperosmolar and mechanical stimulation. Confluent BCEC cultures were grown from capillary fragments isolated from rat cerebral cortex. Intracellular free calcium ([Ca2+]i) was measured using fura-2 and digital imaging. Our experiments show large endothelial calcium responses to substance P and ATP, up to a peak value of approximately 1000 and 600 nM, respectively, and these responses were observed in 2/3 of the cells. Calcium responses to bradykinin, histamine, and hyperosmolar sucrose or mannitol were smaller, attaining a peak in the range 180-340 nM, and were observed in a smaller fraction of the cells. No calcium responses were observed to high-potassium, L-glutamate, serotonin, carbachol, noradrenaline, and nitric-oxide donors. Consecutive superfusion of the cultures with ATP, bradykinin, and histamine showed that cells with a certain response pattern were spatially grouped; the response pattern itself varied widely between experiments. Mechanical stimulation of a single cell caused a calcium response in the stimulated cell in primary cultures and triggered an intercellularly propagating calcium wave in passaged cultures. Given the important effect of endothelial [Ca2+]i on blood-brain barrier permeability and transport, we conclude that substance P and ATP are potential modulators of blood-brain barrier function. Hyperosmolarity-induced blood-brain barrier opening is probably not mediated through endothelial [Ca2+]i.

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