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Brain Res. 2005 Dec 7;1064(1-2):21-31. Epub 2005 Nov 14.

Evaluation of the immortalized human brain capillary endothelial cell line BB19 as a human cell culture model for the blood-brain barrier.

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Department of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, University Hospital Basel, Switzerland.


In vitro models of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) play a major role in the study of BBB permeability of drug candidates. However, most established in vitro models use cells of non-human origin, which is not optimal for the prediction of brain permeability in humans. The aim of this study was to assess the human brain capillary endothelial cell line BB19 for its usefulness as an in vitro model of the human BBB. Restrictive tight junctions are a prerequisite for drug transport studies. Sucrose permeability of BB19 cells on different filters was compared to porcine brain capillary endothelial cells (BCEC). Tightness of BB19 cell monolayers still needs further optimization. Hardly any discrimination between Sucrose and Propranolol (P(app) = 1.30 x 10(-5) vs. 2.18 x 10(-5) cm/s) was seen. Cells showed an improvement towards a more primary BCEC morphology with C6 conditioned medium, dexamethasone, and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3. The presence of P-glycoprotein (P-gp), MRP4 and BCRP, ABC-transporters located in the BBB, has been shown on mRNA level, by immunostaining, and western blot. MRP1, MRP2, MRP5, OAT3, and OAT4 were also detected by RT-PCR. Functional properties of the BBB were shown with uptake of propranolol, morphine, and sucrose. Uptake studies with daunomycin and the P-gp inhibitor verapamil showed functional activity of P-gp. We conclude that BB19 cells might be feasible as a human in vitro model of the BBB for drug uptake studies. However, for the assessment of transport studies, further improvements of this model are necessary.

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