Pericytes from brain microvessels strengthen the barrier integrity in primary cultures of rat brain endothelial cells

Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2007 Sep;27(6):687-94. doi: 10.1007/s10571-007-9195-4. Epub 2007 Sep 6.


(1) The blood-brain barrier (BBB) characteristics of cerebral endothelial cells are induced by organ-specific local signals. Brain endothelial cells lose their phenotype in cultures without cross-talk with neighboring cells. (2) In contrast to astrocytes, pericytes, another neighboring cell of endothelial cells in brain capillaries, are rarely used in BBB co-culture systems. (3) Seven different types of BBB models, mono-culture, double and triple co-cultures, were constructed from primary rat brain endothelial cells, astrocytes and pericytes on culture inserts. The barrier integrity of the models were compared by measurement of transendothelial electrical resistance and permeability for the small molecular weight marker fluorescein. (4) We could confirm that brain endothelial monolayers in mono-culture do not form tight barrier. Pericytes induced higher electrical resistance and lower permeability for fluorescein than type I astrocytes in co-culture conditions. In triple co-culture models the tightest barrier was observed when endothelial cells and pericytes were positioned on the two sides of the porous filter membrane of the inserts and astrocytes at the bottom of the culture dish. (5) For the first time a rat primary culture based syngeneic triple co-culture BBB model has been constructed using brain pericytes beside brain endothelial cells and astrocytes. This model, mimicking closely the anatomical position of the cells at the BBB in vivo, was superior to the other BBB models tested. (6) The influence of pericytes on the BBB properties of brain endothelial cells may be as important as that of astrocytes and could be exploited in the construction of better BBB models.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / cytology*
  • Brain / blood supply*
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Capillary Permeability / drug effects
  • Capillary Permeability / physiology*
  • Cell Membrane Permeability / drug effects
  • Cell Membrane Permeability / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques / methods
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology*
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Fluorescein / pharmacokinetics
  • Microcirculation / cytology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Pericytes / metabolism
  • Pericytes / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Fluorescein