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PLoS One. 2013 Apr 26;8(4):e62164. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062164. Print 2013.

Circulating brain microvascular endothelial cells (cBMECs) as potential biomarkers of the blood-brain barrier disorders caused by microbial and non-microbial factors.

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Department of Pediatrics, Saban Research Institute of Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, United States of America.


Despite aggressive research, central nervous system (CNS) disorders, including blood-brain barrier (BBB) injury caused by microbial infection, stroke, abused drugs [e.g., methamphetamine (METH) and nicotine], and other pathogenic insults, remain the world's leading cause of disabilities. In our previous work, we found that dysfunction of brain microvascular endothelial cells (BMECs), which are a major component of the BBB, could be caused by nicotine, meningitic pathogens and microbial factors, including HIV-1 virulence factors gp41 and gp120. One of the most challenging issues in this area is that there are no available cell-based biomarkers in peripheral blood for BBB disorders caused by microbial and non-microbial insults. To identify such cellular biomarkers for BBB injuries, our studies have shown that mice treated with nicotine, METH and gp120 resulted in increased blood levels of CD146+(endothelial marker)/S100B+ (brain marker) circulating BMECs (cBMECs) and CD133+[progenitor cell (PC) marker]/CD146+ endothelial PCs (EPCs), along with enhanced Evans blue and albumin extravasation into the brain. Nicotine and gp120 were able to significantly increase the serum levels of ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase 1 (UCHL1) (a new BBB marker) as well as S100B in mice, which are correlated with the changes in cBMECs and EPCs. Nicotine- and meningitic E. coli K1-induced enhancement of cBMEC levels, leukocyte migration across the BBB and albumin extravasation into the brain were significantly reduced in alpha7 nAChR knockout mice, suggesting that this inflammatory regulator plays an important role in CNS inflammation and BBB disorders caused by microbial and non-microbial factors. These results demonstrated that cBMECs as well as EPCs may be used as potential cell-based biomarkers for indexing of BBB injury.

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