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J Physiol. 2006 Jun 1;573(Pt 2):413-25. Epub 2006 Mar 16.

Glucocorticoid effects on mouse microvascular endothelial barrier permeability are brain specific.

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Institute of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Würzburg, Koellikerstrasse 6, D-97070 Würzburg, Germany.


Endothelial cells (ECs) from different vascular beds display certain common qualities, but each subtype is uniquely adapted to meet the demands of the underlying tissues. The structural peculiarities of intercellular junctions are, for instance, considered to account for the differences in permeability displayed by various vascular beds: strong occludin expression is unique to cerebral ECs and considered to account for the high electrical resistance and low paracellular permeability of brain microvessels which constitute the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The integrity of the BBB is compromised in many disorders of the human CNS; therapeutic strategies include treatment with glucocorticoids (GCs), which improve barrier properties of the BBB. In contrast, positive effects of GCs on peripheral vascular permeability could not be demonstrated clearly, while side-effects of prolonged GC treatment are considerable. In an effort to elucidate this difference, we analysed the expression of occludin and the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) in BBB and non-BBB (myocardium) endothelial cells. Our results demonstrate complete GR downregulation by GCs in murine non-BBB endothelial cells in vivo, whereas GC administration led to nuclear concentration of GRs in BBB endothelium. In correlation with these in vivo data, the use of cerebral and myocardial endothelial cell lines proved GR downregulation in non-BBB cells in vitro in response to GC treatment. Divergent transactivating activity of GRs in the BBB and non-BBB endothelial cellular context could be demonstrated after transfection of endothelial cells with a model GC-responsive test promoter plasmid in the presence and absence of dexamethasone. Our results thus suggest differential signalling mechanisms involved in endothelial barrier regulation, arguing for the development of tissue-specific drugs for therapeutic applications.

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