Morphofunctional aspects of the blood-brain barrier

Beatrice Nico, Domenico Ribatti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The blood-brain barrier (BBB) selectively controls the homeostasis of the Central Nervous System (CNS) environment by the specific structural and biochemical features of the endothelial cells, pericytes and glial endfeet, which represent the cellular components of the mature BBB. Endothelial tight junctions (TJs) are the most important structural component of the BBB, and molecular alteration in the phosphorylation state of some TJs proteins, like ZO-1 or occludin, are crucial in determining alterations in the control of BBB vascular permeability. Astrocytes endfeet enveloping the vessels wall, are considered important in the induction and maintenance of the BBB, through secretion of soluble factors, which modulate the expression of enzymatic complexes and antigens by endothelial cells and TJs - associated proteins. Moreover, astrocytes control water flux at BBB site by expressing a specific water channel, namely aquaporin-4 (AQP4), involved in the molecular composition of the orthogonal particles arrays (OAPs) on the perivascular glial endfeet and tightly coupled with the maintenance of the BBB integrity. Disruption of the BBB is a consistent event occurring in the development of several CNS diseases, including demyelinating lesions in the course of relapsing multiple sclerosis, stroke, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), but also mechanical injures, neurological insults, septic encephalopathy, brain tumors, permanent ischemia or transient ischemia followed by reperfusion. In most cases, these pathological conditions are associated with an increase in microvascular permeability, vasogenic edema, swollen atrocyte endfeet, and BBB disruption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-60
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Drug Metabolism
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


  • Aquaporin-4
  • Astrocytes
  • Blood-brain barrier
  • Duchenne muscular dystrophy
  • Endothelium
  • Pericytes
  • Tight junctions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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