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Neuroimmunomodulation. 2013;20(5):264-73. doi: 10.1159/000350470. Epub 2013 Jul 18.

Effects of interleukin-6 on the expression of tight junction proteins in isolated cerebral microvessels from yearling and adult sheep.

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Department of Pediatrics, The Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, Providence, RI 02905-2499, USA.



The blood-brain barrier is a selective diffusion barrier between brain parenchyma and the intravascular compartment. Tight junctions are integral components of the blood-brain barrier. Pro-inflammatory cytokines are important in the pathogenesis of brain injury and could modify the protein constituents of tight junctions. We hypothesized that interleukin-6 (IL-6) downregulates key protein constituents of endothelial tight junctions (e.g. occludin and claudin-5).


We examined the effects of IL-6 on tight junction protein expression using an in vitro blood-brain barrier model. We isolated microvessels from yearling and adult ovine cerebral cortex and placed them into culture with IL-6 concentrations of 0 (control, phosphate-buffered saline), 1, 10, and 100 ng/ml for 24 h. Cerebral microvessels were harvested, Western immunoblot performed for occludin and claudin-5, densitometry performed, and results expressed as a ratio to control values.


Western immunoblot analysis showed that treatment with 100 ng/ml of IL-6, but not the lower concentrations, reduced (p < 0.05) occludin expression in microvessels from yearling and adult sheep and claudin-5 in microvessels from adult sheep. However, treatment with 10 ng/ml of IL-6 increased claudin-5 in microvessels from yearling sheep. The percent of lactate dehydrogenase released from the microvessels into the surrounding media was not increased by IL-6 treatment, suggesting that the reductions in tight junction proteins did not result from cell death. Treatment of adult cerebral cortical microvessels with IL-6 preincubated with anti-IL-6 monoclonal antibodies partially attenuated the reduction in claudin-5.


We conclude that IL-6 modulates tight junction protein expression in cerebral cortical microvessels from yearling and adult sheep.

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