Altered blood-brain barrier development in dystrophic MDX mice

B. Nico, G. Paola Nicchia, A. Frigeri, P. Corsi, D. Mangieri, D. Ribatti, M. Svelto, L. Roncali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In order to ascertain whether the alterations of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) seen in adult dystrophic mdx-mice [Glia 42 (2003) 235], a human model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), are developmentally established and correlated with other dystrophin isoforms which are localized at the glial-vascular interface, we used immunocytochemistry to investigate the expression of dystrophin isoforms (Dp71) during BBB development in mdx fetuses and in adult mice. Parallelly, we used Western blot, immunocytochemistry and immunogold electron microscopy to analyze the expression of the zonula occludens (ZO-1), aquaporin-4 (AQP4) and glial fibrillary acidic (GFAP) proteins as endothelial and glial markers, and we evaluated the integrity of the mdx BBB by means of intravascular injection of horseradish peroxidase (HRP). The results show reduced dystrophin isoforms (Dp71) in the mdx mouse compared with the control, starting from early embryonic life. Endothelial ZO-1 expression was reduced, and the tight junctions were altered and unlabeled. AQP4 and GFAP glial proteins in mdx mice also showed modifications in developmental expression, the glial vascular processes being only lightly AQP4- and GFAP-labeled compared with the controls. Confocal microscopy and HRP assays confirmed the alteration in vessel glial investment, GFAP perivascular endfoot reactivity being strongly reduced and BBB permeability increasing. These results demonstrate that a reduction in dystrophin isoforms (Dp71) at glial endfeet leads to an altered development of the BBB, whose no-closure might contribute to the neurological dysfunctions associated with DMD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)921-935
Number of pages15
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • alkaline phosphatase-anti-alkaline phosphatase
  • AQP4
  • aquaporin-4
  • BB
  • BBB
  • blocking buffer
  • blood-brain barrier
  • DAP
  • Duchenne muscular dystrophy
  • dystrophin isoforms
  • glial fibrillary acidic protein
  • tight junction
  • zonula occludens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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