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J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2012 Oct;32(10):1841-52. doi: 10.1038/jcbfm.2012.113. Epub 2012 Aug 1.

Blood-spinal cord barrier pericyte reductions contribute to increased capillary permeability.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Southern California, Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, Center for Neurodegeneration and Regeneration, Los Angeles, California 90089, USA.


The blood-spinal cord barrier (BSCB) regulates molecular exchange between blood and spinal cord. Pericytes are presumed to be important cellular constituents of the BSCB. However, the regional abundance and vascular functions of spinal cord pericytes have yet to be determined. Utilizing wild-type mice, we show that spinal cord pericyte capillary coverage and number compared with the brain regions are reduced most prominently in the anterior horn. Regional pericyte variations are highly correlated with: (1) increased capillary permeability to 350 Da, 40,000 Da, and 150,000 Da, but not 2,000,000 Da fluorescent vascular tracers in cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions and (2) diminished endothelial zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1) and occludin tight junction protein expression. Pericyte-deficient mutations (Pdgfrβ(F7/F7) mice) resulted in additional pericyte reductions in spinal cord capillaries leading to overt BSCB disruption to serum proteins, accumulation in motor neurons of cyotoxic thrombin and fibrin and motor neuron loss. Barrier disruption in perciyte-deficient mice coincided with further reductions in ZO-1 and occludin. These data suggest that pericytes contribute to proper function of the BSCB at the capillary level. Regional reductions in spinal cord pericytes may provide a cellular basis for heightened spinal cord barrier capillary permeability and motor neuron loss.

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