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J Neurochem. 1994 Jun;62(6):2375-86.

The 140-kDa protein of blood-brain barrier-associated pericytes is identical to aminopeptidase N.

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Institute of Anatomy, University of Regensburg, Germany.


Although ample evidence has been accumulated on the structure and functional role of endothelial cells in blood-brain barrier mechanisms, little is known about the contribution that cerebral pericytes provide to this phenomenon. We have reported recently on a monoclonal antibody specific for cerebral pericytes at blood-brain barrier sites. To confirm the pericytic localization of this antigen, and in order to elucidate its biochemical identity, we have performed immunocytochemical, biochemical, and molecular biological studies. By immunocytochemistry on the light microscopic as well as electron microscopic level, we provide definite evidence that the 140-kDa antigen recognized by this monoclonal antibody is confined to cerebral pericytes, whereas endothelial cells are devoid of this antigen. N-Terminal sequencing of the corresponding immunocrossreacting renal protein revealed that the protein detected by the monoclonal antibody is identical to aminopeptidase N. By means of the reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, the identity of the 140-kDa antigen as aminopeptidase N could also be verified for cerebral microvascular cells. Cerebral pericytic aminopeptidase N may be involved in neurotransmitter (enkephalin) metabolism at the blood-brain interface. By taking into account that brain pericytes have been found to express further plasma membrane-bound enzymes, these results strongly suggest the contribution of cerebral pericytes in the metabolic concert of the homeostatic balance regulated by the blood-brain barrier.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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