Proteins in cerebrospinal fluid and blood: barriers, CSF flow rate and source-related dynamics

Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2003;21(3-4):79-96.


Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) routine analysis for diagnosis of neurological diseases is based on the concepts for discrimination of blood-derived and brain-derived immunoglobulin fractions in CSF. The actual molecular flux/CSF flow theory of the blood/CSF barrier function, which founded the hyperbolic discrimination lines in quotient diagrams, is derived from the laws of molecular diffusion combined with CSF flow rate. It emerged from this theory that the decrease of CSF flow rate is sufficient to explain quantitatively the increase of CSF protein concentrations as observed in many neurological diseases. With this concept of CSF flow rate as the modulator of the normal and pathological blood-CSF barrier function, we got for the first time a theoretical frame work to explain also quantitatively the dynamics of brain-derived proteins and their source related (neurons and glial cells or leptomeningal cells) differences. The review of the anatomical, physiological and biophysical knowledge points to the new interpretations: The changing albumin quotient is an indicator of changing CSF flow rate and not for a morphological "leakage" of the blood-brain barrier. As an application of these concepts the dynamics of brain-derived molecules in blood are discussed with two examples: beta trace protein, flowing with CSF into venous blood, and neuron-specific enolase, passing from tissue into blood the opposite direction of serum proteins, again a gradient-dependent protein diffusion across the intact blood vessel wall.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Proteins / blood*
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Proteins / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Humans
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Serum Albumin / metabolism


  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Serum Albumin