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Exp Neurol. 1997 Apr;144(2):381-99.

Spinal cord compression injury in guinea pigs: structural changes of endothelium and its perivascular cell associations after blood-brain barrier breakdown and repair.

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Center for Paralysis Research, Purdue University, School of Veterinary Medicine, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907, USA.


This study examines morphological changes of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) after spinal cord compression. The lowest thoracic segment (T13) of female guinea pigs was injured and the BBB was tested from 7 days to 5.5 months postinjury using intravenously injected horseradish peroxidase (HRP) as a tracer. Tracer leakage in the injured segment was verified with the light microscope and the fine structure of capillaries was examined. Diffuse tissue staining was observed at T13 up to 2 weeks following injury. A leaky BBB correlated with expected changes in the fine structure of endothelial cell junctions. These were predominantly nonoverlapping cell junctions which, in many instances, were separated by clefts between adjacent cells. At early survival times, numerous capillary profiles with juxtaposed astrocyte foot processes were noted in addition to altered cell associations. Complete sealing of the BBB against interstitial HRP leakage was not observed until 17 days postinjury. After the first week, some of the endothelial cells were contacted by macrophages, processes of perivascular microglia, and processes of swollen and degenerating astrocytes. Perivascular spaces varied in extent and contained amorphous deposits of extracellular materials in addition to supernumerary layers of basal lamina. The early changes were followed by profound tissue restructuring due to loss of both neurons and glia. At longer survival times the BBB to HRP repaired. Endothelial cells formed complex overlapping junctions with zonulae occludentes. Most of the capillaries in the injured segment were no longer in direct contact with astrocyte foot processes, although reactive astrocytes constituted the predominant cell type in the remaining gray matter. Substantial expansion of perivascular spaces was evident. The cytoplasm of endothelial cells had numerous pinocytotic vesicles. Perivascular spaces contained layers of assembled collagen arranged perpendicularly to each other in addition to amorphous matrix materials. The findings suggest that decoupling of astrocyte foot processes from endothelial cell surfaces does not prevent reformation of tight junctions. It remains to be examined what effects the larger perivascular spaces, extracellular matrix deposits, and changes of cell associations may have on transport systems and ionic buffering. The data are relevant for estimating an opportune time for application of barrier-impermeable drugs to the lesion area.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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