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In Search of the Astrocytic Factor(s) Modulating Blood–Brain Barrier Functions in Brain Capillary Endothelial Cells In Vitro

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Summary

1. The blood–brain barrier (BBB) is formed by brain capillary endothelial cells (ECs). There are various cell types, in particular astrocytes, but also pericytes and neurons, located in close vicinity to the capillary ECs which may influence formation and function of the BBB. Based on this consideration, this paper discusses various aspects of the influence of the surrounding cells on brain capillary ECs with special focus on the role of astrocytes.

2. Based on the morphology of the BBB, important aspects of brain EC functions are summarized, such as transport functions and maintenance of low paracellular permeability. Moreover, various facets are discussed with respect to the influence of astrocytes, pericytes, microglia, and neurons on the BBB. Data on the role of glial cells in the ontogenesis of the BBB are presented subsequently. The knowledge on this subject is far from being complete, however, these data imply that the neural/neuronal environment rather than glial cells may be of importance in the maturation of the barrier.

3. The role of glial cells in the induction and maintenance of the BBB is discussed under physiological as well as pathological conditions. Although the literature presents manifold evidence for a great variety of effects induced by astroglia, there are also many controversies, which may result from different cellular models and experimental conditions used in the respective studies. Numerous factors secreted by astrocytes have been shown to induce a BBB phenotype. On the molecular level, increased expression of barrier-relevant proteins (e.g., tight junction proteins) is documented in the presence of astrocyte-derived factors, and many studies demonstrate the improvement of physiological parameters, such as increased transendothelial resistance and decreased paracellular permeability, in different in vitro models of the BBB. Moreover, one has to take into account that the interaction of brain ECs and astrocytes is bi-directional, and that the other cell types surrounding the brain microvasculature also contribute to BBB function or dysfunction, respectively.

4. In conclusion, it is expected that the present and future research focused on molecular mechanisms and signaling pathways will produce new and exciting insights into the complex network of BBB regulation: the cornerstone is laid.

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Haseloff, R.F., Blasig, I.E., Bauer, H.C. et al. In Search of the Astrocytic Factor(s) Modulating Blood–Brain Barrier Functions in Brain Capillary Endothelial Cells In Vitro. Cell Mol Neurobiol 25, 25–39 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10571-004-1375-x

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