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Curr Neuropharmacol. 2008 Sep;6(3):179-92. doi: 10.2174/157015908785777210.

Brain endothelial cell-cell junctions: how to "open" the blood brain barrier.

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1
Department of Pathology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor MI 48109, USA.

Abstract

The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a highly specialized structural and biochemical barrier that regulates the entry of blood-borne molecules into brain, and preserves ionic homeostasis within the brain microenvironment. BBB properties are primarily determined by junctional complexes between the cerebral endothelial cells. These complexes are comprised of tight and adherens junctions. Such restrictive angioarchitecture at the BBB reduces paracellular diffusion, while minimal vesicle transport activity in brain endothelial cells limits transcellular transport. Under normal conditions, this largely prevents the extravasation of large and small solutes (unless specific transporters are present) and prevents migration of any type of blood-borne cell. However, this is changed in many pathological conditions. There, BBB disruption ("opening") can lead to increased paracellular permeability, allowing entry of leukocytes into brain tissue, but also contributing to edema formation. In parallel, there are changes in the endothelial pinocytotic vesicular system resulting in the uptake and transfer of fluid and macromolecules into brain parenchyma. This review highlights the route and possible factors involved in BBB disruption in a variety of neuropathological disorders (e.g. CNS inflammation, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy). It also summarizes proposed signal transduction pathways that may be involved in BBB "opening".

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