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Cell Microbiol. 2011 Oct;13(10):1470-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-5822.2011.01661.x. Epub 2011 Sep 6.

How can microbial interactions with the blood-brain barrier modulate astroglial and neuronal function?

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  • 1Johns Hopkins SOM, Department Pathology, Division Medical Microbiology, 720 Rutland Ave, Ross 624, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


The vascular endothelium of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) is regarded as a part of the neurovascular unit (NVU). This emerging NVU concept emphasizes the need for homeostatic signalling among the neuronal, glial and vascular endothelial cellular compartments in maintaining normal brain function. Conversely, dysfunction in any component of the NVU affects another, thus contributing to disease. Brain endothelial activation and dysfunction is observed in various neurological diseases, such as (ischemic) stroke, seizure, brain inflammation and infectious diseases and likely contributes to or exacerbates neurological conditions. The role and impact of brain endothelial factors on astroglial and neuronal activation is unclear. Similarly, it is not clear which stages of BBB endothelial activation can be considered beneficial versus detrimental. Although the BBB plays an important role in context of encephalopathies caused by neurotropic microbes that must first penetrate into the brain, a crucial role of the BBB in contributing to neurological dysfunction may be seen in cerebral malaria (CM), where the Plasmodium parasite remains sequestered in the brain vasculature, does not enter the brain parenchyma, and yet causes coma and seizures. In this minireview some of the scenarios and factors that may play a role in BBB as a relay station to modulate astroneuronal functioning are discussed.

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