Neuron-glial interactions in blood-brain barrier formation

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2007;30:235-58. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.30.051606.094345.


The blood brain barrier (BBB) evolved to preserve the microenvironment of the highly excitable neuronal cells to allow for action potential generation and propagation. Intricate molecular interactions between two main cell types, the neurons and the glial cells, form the underlying basis of the critical functioning of the nervous system across species. In invertebrates, interactions between neurons and glial cells are central in establishing a functional BBB. However, in vertebrates, the BBB formation and function is coordinated by interactions between neurons, glial cells, and endothelial cells. Here we review the neuron-glial interaction-based blood barriers in invertebrates and vertebrates and provide an evolutionary perspective as to how a glial-barrier system in invertebrates evolved into an endothelial barrier system. We also summarize the clinical relevance of the BBB as this protective barrier becomes disadvantageous in the pharmacological treatment of various neurological disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiology*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / ultrastructure
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain / ultrastructure
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Endothelial Cells / physiology*
  • Endothelial Cells / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Invertebrates / anatomy & histology
  • Invertebrates / physiology
  • Neuroglia / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Vertebrates / anatomy & histology
  • Vertebrates / physiology