Peptides crossing the blood-brain barrier: some unusual observations

Brain Res. 1999 Nov 27;848(1-2):96-100. doi: 10.1016/s0006-8993(99)01961-7.


An interactive blood-brain barrier (BBB) helps regulate the passage of peptides from the periphery to the CNS and from the CNS to the periphery. Many peptides cross the BBB by simple diffusion, mainly explained by their lipophilicity and other physicochemical properties. Other peptides cross by saturable transport systems. The systems that transport peptides into or out of the CNS can be highly specific, transporting MIF-1 but not Tyr-MIF-1, PACAP38 but not PACAP27, IL-1 but not IL-2, and leptin but not the smaller ingestive peptides NPY, orexin A, orexin B, CART (55-102[Met(O)(67)]), MCH, or AgRP(83-132). Although the peptides EGF and TGF-alpha bind to the same receptor, only EGF enters by a rapid saturable transport system, suggesting that receptors and transporters can represent different proteins. Even the polypeptide NGF enters faster than its much smaller subunit beta-NGF. The saturable transport of some compounds can be upregulated, like TNF-alpha in EAE (an animal model of multiple sclerosis) and after spinal cord injury, emphasizing the regulatory role of the BBB. As has been shown for CRH, saturable transport from brain to blood can exert effects in the periphery. Thus, the BBB plays a dynamic role in the communication of peptides between the periphery and the CNS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Peptides / metabolism*


  • Peptides