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J Physiol. 1990 Oct;429:47-62.

Electrical resistance across the blood-brain barrier in anaesthetized rats: a developmental study.

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  • 1Biomedical Sciences Division, King's College London.


1. Ion permeability of the blood-brain barrier was studied by in situ measurement of transendothelial electrical resistance in anaesthetized rats aged between 17 days gestation and 33 days after birth, and by electron microscopic examination of lanthanum permeability in fetal and neonatal rats aged up to 10 days old. 2. The blood-brain barrier in 17- to 20-day fetuses had a resistance of 310 omega cm2 but was impermeable to lanthanum, and therefore had properties intermediate between leaky and tight epithelia. 3. From 21 days gestation, the resistance was 1128 omega cm2, indicating a tight blood-brain barrier and low ion permeability. There was little further change in barrier resistance after birth, and in 28- to 33-day rats, when the brain barrier systems are mature in other ways, vessels had a mean resistance of 1462 omega cm2. 4. In the tight blood-brain barrier, arterial vessels had a significantly higher resistance than venous vessels, 1490 and 918 omega cm2 respectively. In vessels less than 50 microns diameter and within the normal 60 min experimental period, there was no significant variation in vessel resistance. 5. Hyperosmotic shock caused a rapid decay in resistance (maximal within 5 min), and after disruption of the blood-brain barrier, vessel resistance was 100-300 omega cm2 in both arterial and venous vessels, and the effect was reversible. After the application of metabolic poisons (NaCN plus iodoacetate) and low temperature there was a similarly low electrical resistance. 6. It is concluded that the increase in electrical resistance at birth indicates a decrease in paracellular ion permeability at the blood-brain barrier and is required for effective brain interstitial fluid ion regulation.

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