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Brain Res. 2013 Jul 12;1521:16-30. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2013.04.006. Epub 2013 Apr 17.

A detailed method for preparation of a functional and flexible blood-brain barrier model using porcine brain endothelial cells.

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Institute of Pharmaceutical Science, Franklin Wilkins Building, King's College London, London, UK.


The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is formed by the endothelial cells of cerebral microvessels and forms the critical interface regulating molecular flux between blood and brain. It contributes to homoeostasis of the microenvironment of the central nervous system and protection from pathogens and toxins. Key features of the BBB phenotype are presence of complex intercellular tight junctions giving a high transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER), and strongly polarised (apical:basal) localisation of transporters and receptors. In vitro BBB models have been developed from primary culture of brain endothelial cells of several mammalian species, but most require exposure to astrocytic factors to maintain the BBB phenotype. Other limitations include complicated procedures for isolation, poor yield and batch-to-batch variability. Some immortalised brain endothelial cell models have proved useful for transport studies but most lack certain BBB features and have low TEER. We have developed an in vitro BBB model using primary cultured porcine brain endothelial cells (PBECs) which is relatively simple to prepare, robust, and reliably gives high TEER (mean~800 Ω cm(2)); it also shows good functional expression of key tight junction proteins, transporters, receptors and enzymes. The model can be used either in monoculture, for studies of molecular flux including permeability screening, or in co-culture with astrocytes when certain specialised features (e.g. receptor-mediated transcytosis) need to be maximally expressed. It is also suitable for a range of studies of cell:cell interaction in normal physiology and in pathology. The method for isolating and growing the PBECs is given in detail to facilitate adoption of the model. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Companion Paper.

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