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Brain Behav Immun. 2011 Jul;25(5):915-21. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2010.09.021. Epub 2010 Oct 1.

Brain-specific angiogenesis inhibitor-1 expression in astrocytes and neurons: implications for its dual function as an apoptotic engulfment receptor.

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Department of Pathology, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.


Brain-specific angiogenesis inhibitor-1 (BAI1) is a transmembrane protein highly expressed in normal brain that has been ascribed two apparently distinct functions: inhibition of angiogenesis and recognition and engulfment of apoptotic cells by phagocytes. A previous localization study reported BAI1 expression only in neurons. Because a phagocytic function of BAI1 could be important for neuroglial antigen processing and presentation, we performed immunolocalization studies in adult mouse brain and cultured neural cells, using a pair of antibodies directed against N- and C-terminal epitopes. BAI1 immunoreactivity is enriched in gray matter structures and largely excluded from myelinated axon tracts. Neuronal BAI1 expression was readily detectable in the cerebellar molecular layer as well as in primary hippocampal cultures. In some brain regions, especially olfactory bulb glomeruli, BAI1 was expressed by GFAP-positive astrocytes. Cultured cortical astrocytes show small (∼0.4μm(2)) BAI1 immunoreactive membrane puncta as well as prominent focal adhesion localization in a subset of cells. In mixed neuronal-glial cultures, BAI1-expressing astrocytes frequently contained engulfed apoptotic debris. Cultured astrocytes engulfed apoptotic targets, and BAI1 showed accumulation within the phagocytic cup. We hypothesize that glial BAI1 may subserve an engulfment function in adult brain regions such as olfactory bulb with ongoing apoptotic turnover, whereas neuronal-derived BAI1 may serve primarily as an anti-angiogenic factor in the mature neuropil.

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