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Trends Immunol. 2012 Dec;33(12):579-89. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2012 Aug 25.

Capture, crawl, cross: the T cell code to breach the blood-brain barriers.

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Theodor Kocher Institute, University of Bern, Freiestrasse 1, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland.


The central nervous system (CNS) is an immunologically privileged site to which access of circulating immune cells is tightly controlled by the endothelial blood-brain barrier (BBB; see Glossary) localized in CNS microvessels, and the epithelial blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier (BCSFB) within the choroid plexus. As a result of the specialized structure of the CNS barriers, immune cell entry into the CNS parenchyma involves two differently regulated steps: migration of immune cells across the BBB or BCSFB into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)-drained spaces of the CNS, followed by progression across the glia limitans into the CNS parenchyma. With a focus on multiple sclerosis (MS) and its animal models, this review summarizes the distinct molecular mechanisms required for immune cell migration across the different CNS barriers.

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