Cell-cell signaling in the neurovascular unit

Neurochem Res. 2007 Dec;32(12):2032-45. doi: 10.1007/s11064-007-9342-9. Epub 2007 Apr 25.


Historically, the neuron has been the conceptual focus for almost all of neuroscience research. In recent years, however, the concept of the neurovascular unit has emerged as a new paradigm for investigating both physiology and pathology in the CNS. This concept proposes that a purely neurocentric focus is not sufficient, and emphasizes that all cell types in the brain including neuronal, glial and vascular components, must be examined in an integrated context. Cell-cell signaling and coupling between these different compartments form the basis for normal function. Disordered signaling and perturbed coupling form the basis for dysfunction and disease. In this mini-review, we will survey four examples of this phenomenon: hemodynamic neurovascular coupling linking blood flow to brain activity; cellular communications that evoke the blood-brain barrier phenotype; parallel systems that underlie both neurogenesis and angiogenesis in the CNS; and finally, the potential exchange of trophic factors that may link neuronal, glial and vascular homeostasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / cytology*
  • Nerve Growth Factors / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Nerve Growth Factors