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J Comp Neurol. 1994 Apr 22;342(4):481-96.

Immunocytochemical localization of immunoglobulins in the rat brain: relationship to the blood-brain barrier.

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Department of Neurosurgery, University of California, San Francisco.


The central nervous system has been traditionally regarded as an immunologically privileged area. This feature has been in part attributed to the blood-brain barrier, which provides a restrictive interface to circulating immunoglobulins (IgG). Recent kinetic studies suggest that the barrier to immune proteins is not absolute, but rather may be regulated by a specific transfer mechanism. In this study, we confirm the presence of IgG in the central nervous system by immunocytochemistry and demonstrate a close anatomical relationship between the distribution of this protein and the blood-brain barrier. IgG was immunolocalized in the normal rat brain by using monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies to IgG and its subclasses. On the basis of an initial evaluation, the most appropriate antibodies and dilutions were selected for subsequent analyses. In the first study, IgG and albumin were immunolocalized in adjacent sections. In the second study, horseradish peroxidase (HRP) was given intravenously prior to sacrifice, in order to examine artifacts related to perfusion fixation. The distribution of HRP and IgG was then examined in adjacent sections. In the third study, IgG was immunolocalized in sections of brain after mild traumatic head injury. A monoclonal antibody to IgG2a and a polyclonal antibody to IgG were selected on the basis of specificity and consistent, mutual localization. Distinct, patchy, perivascular staining, infrequently associated with labeled neurons, was noted throughout the brain. Electron microscopy confirmed the perivascular localization; IgG was localized along the basal lamina of microvasculature and within the adjacent parenchyma. Albumin and HRP did not exhibit a similar pattern of perivascular immunostaining. After head injury, prominent immunostaining for IgG was observed in the injured hemisphere. In summary, these data indicate that the normal rat brain contains IgG, which dramatically increases after head injury. The distinct perivascular distribution in the normal brain suggests local microvascular permeability. This permeability is selective for IgG, since albumin does not share a similar perivascular localization. The neuronal staining which is closely associated with perivascular label may reflect one intracellular route for extravasated IgG.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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