The blood-brain barrier (BBB) differentiation was investigated by immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy in the radial microvasculature of the telencephalon cortical plate (CP) of 12- and 18-week human fetuses. The BBB-specific glucose transporter isoform 1 (GLUT1) is expressed in both stages, with a main localization on the ablumenal and lateral plasma membranes of the endothelial cells. The endothelial cells are welded by short junctions with fusion points of the plasma membranes at 12 weeks and by extensive tight junctions at 18 weeks. The basal lamina is discontinuous beneath the endothelium-pericyte layer at 12 weeks and splits into two continuous layers circumscribing the pericytes in the later stage. The expression of laminin, a basal lamina glycoprotein, is continuous already at 12 weeks. The CP microvessels are tightly surrounded by processes of glial cells. Immunodetection of the cytoskeletal filament proteins, vimentin (VIM), and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), demonstrates that at 12 weeks the perivascular glial processes are mostly represented by VIM-stained fibers of the radial glia. At 18 weeks, GFAP-stained radial glia fibers, processes of VIM-stained astroblasts, and GFAP-positive astrocytes also build the perivascular envelopes. The results indicate that the vessel differentiation is already under way in the human CP at the midgestational age and entails the establishment of some barrier devices. The early relationship between perivascular glia coverage formation and endothelial barrier maturation suggests that also immature astroglial cells are involved in the setting up of the BBB.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.