Pericytes of the brain microvasculature express gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase

Eur J Biochem. 1991 Dec 5;202(2):421-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1432-1033.1991.tb16391.x.


The expression of gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT) is a specific property of the brain capillary endothelium that constitutes the blood-brain barrier. We report here the detection of GGT, not only in endothelial cells, but also in pericytes, demonstrating that a brain capillary-specific pericyte population exists. We raised antibodies to GGT using a porcine brain microvessel GGT-protein-A (staphylococcal protein A) fusion protein as antigen which was expressed in Escherichia coli. The immunohistochemical analysis of the subcapillary distribution of GGT in porcine brain cortex and cerebellum sections by both light and electron microscopy revealed the expression of GGT in the capillary-adjacent pericytes in addition to the GGT-positive endothelial layer. We confirmed these data for cultured porcine brain microvascular endothelial cells and pericytes. GGT immunofluorescence could be detected in both cell types in culture. Endothelial cells exhibited a weak staining, whereas pericytes were strongly positive for GGT. Due to the high phagocytotic activity of pericytes and their location on the abluminal surface of the microvessels, we propose a possible protective or detoxifying function of GGT in cerebrovascular pericytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier
  • Blotting, Western
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / enzymology*
  • Brain / ultrastructure
  • Capillaries / cytology
  • Capillary Permeability
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / enzymology
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Genetic Vectors
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Swine
  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase / genetics
  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase / immunology
  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase / metabolism*


  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase