Elimination of interstitial fluid and solutes plays a role in homeostasis in the brain, but the pathways are unclear. Previous work suggests that interstitial fluid drains along the walls of arteries.
Aims: to define the pathways within the walls of capillaries and arteries for drainage of fluid and solutes out of the brain.
Methods: Fluorescent soluble tracers, dextran (3 kDa) and ovalbumin (40 kDa), and particulate fluospheres (0.02 microm and 1.0 microm in diameter) were injected into the corpus striatum of mice. Brains were examined from 5 min to 7 days by immunocytochemistry and confocal microscopy.
Results: soluble tracers initially spread diffusely through brain parenchyma and then drain out of the brain along basement membranes of capillaries and arteries. Some tracer is takenf up by vascular smooth muscle cells and by perivascular macrophages. No perivascular drainage was observed when dextran was injected into mouse brains following cardiac arrest. Fluospheres expand perivascular spaces between vessel walls and surrounding brain, are ingested by perivascular macrophages but do not appear to leave the brain even following an inflammatory challenge with lipopolysaccharide or kainate.
Conclusions: capillary and artery basement membranes act as 'lymphatics of the brain' for drainage of fluid and solutes; such drainage appears to require continued cardiac output as it ceases following cardiac arrest. This drainage pathway does not permit migration of cells from brain parenchyma to the periphery. Amyloid-beta is deposited in basement membrane drainage pathways in cerebral amyloid angiopathy, and may impede elimination of amyloid-beta and interstitial fluid from the brain in Alzheimer's disease. Soluble antigens, but not cells, drain from the brain by perivascular pathways. This atypical pattern of drainage may contribute to partial immune privilege of the brain and play a role in neuroimmunological diseases such as multiple sclerosis.