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Neurol Res. 2011 Mar;33(2):176-86. doi: 10.1179/016164111X12881719352372.

Pericyte-mediated vasoconstriction underlies TBI-induced hypoperfusion.

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Department of Neurology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI 48201, USA.

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Endothelin-1 is a 21-amino acid peptide that together with specific receptors, A (ETrA) and B (ETrB) is induced following traumatic brain injury (TBI) and has been closely linked to regulation of cerebral vasospasm, oxidative stress, and hypoperfusion. Specific endothelin receptor antagonists have been shown to ameliorate early evidence of neuronal cell injury, activation of microglial cells, and hypoperfusion following TBI. The exact mechanism involved in TBI-induced hypoperfusion is still unclear; however, it is thought that endothelin-1 engagement of ETrA is primarily responsible for changes in blood flow. In this study we question the role of the microvascular pericyte in endothelin-1-mediated pathophysiology in TBI.


Pericyte expression of endothelin-1, ETrA, and ETrB was examined in primary culture and in sham and impacted rat brain. Adult male rats were also given intracerebroventricular injections of ETrA (BQ-123) before being subjected to TBI using a closed head acceleration impact model.


Primary pericytes express both endothelin-1 and its receptors ETrA and ETrB. Following TBI, the number of alpha-smooth muscle actin (SMA) positive pericytes located in microvessels is significantly increased by 4 hours post-traumatic impact. Increases in pericyte expression of alpha-SMA correlated with evidence of a reduction in both arteriolar and capillary diameter. Capillary endothelin-1, ETrA, and ETrB transcript and protein was also increased. Increased endothelin-1 expression was seen by 2-4 hours post-impact. Upregulation of receptors was observed by 4-8 hours and maximum by 24 hours. ETrA antagonists decreased the number of alpha-SMA(+) pericytes as well as changes in microvascular diameter.


These results suggest that decreased vasoconstriction following TBI may be due to an endothelin-1-induced pericyte-mediated regulation of microvessel blood flow following TBI. Furthermore, results suggest that ETrA antagonists ameliorate trauma induced hypoperfusion, in part, by inhibiting endothelin-1-mediated upregulation of alpha-SMA in pericytes.

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