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J Neurochem. 1991 Dec;57(6):1971-7.

The susceptibility of cerebral endothelial cells to astroglial induction of blood-brain barrier enzymes depends on their proliferative state.

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Institut of Biochemistry, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Münster, F.R.G.


Primary cultures of brain capillary endothelial cells (BCECs) were used to investigate the induction of blood-brain barrier (BBB) characteristics in vitro. Enzymatic activities of gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase (gamma-GT) and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) were taken as indicators for the expression of the BBB phenotype. We were able to show that a coculture system with a direct cell-cell contact between astroglial cells and BCECs is the necessary precondition for an increase of these enzyme activities that are lost in pure BCEC cultures. Coculture with both astrocytes and C6-glioma cells reestablishes the BBB phenotype whereas conditioned media as well as an astrocyte-derived extracellular matrix were ineffective. The susceptibility of the BCECs to an astroglial stimulus depends on the proliferative state of the BCECs. Cells in an early highly proliferative culture phase were stimulated to express an enzymatic activity level similar to the in vivo situation. Confluent BCEC monolayers were not induced at all. With the ALP we observed a spatial induction within a BCEC colony. Astrocyte-induced ALP activity was first observed at an outer belt of BCEC colonies in direct contact with the astrocyte layer. However, this signal is transferred to the center of the colony with time in culture. We conclude that direct contact of BCECs with astroglial cells is necessary for the induction of the BBB phenotype in cultured BCECs and that this signal may be transferred from induced to noninduced BCECs.

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