A diffusion barrier between the area postrema and nucleus tractus solitarius

Neurochem Res. 2008 Oct;33(10):2035-43. doi: 10.1007/s11064-008-9676-y. Epub 2008 Mar 29.


The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a structural and functional barrier that prevents free exchange of circulating substances with the brain, where the endothelial cells of microvessels are joined by tight junctions. The circumventricular organs (CVOs), by contrast, lack tight junctions and exhibit more direct communication with the circulating blood and cerebrospinal fluid. Despite many outstanding morphological studies at the electron microscopic level, there remain misconceptions that the CVOs provide direct passage of blood-borne substances to the rest of the brain. This study will show the structure of the anatomical borders of the dorsal vagal complex in the brainstem. A distinct diffusion barrier between the area postrema (AP, a CVO) and the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) was illustrated by immunohistochemistry at both the light and electron microscopic levels. The border zone between the AP and NTS was underlined by a continuous monolayer of columnar cells that were immunopositive for both the tight junction protein zona occludin-1 and the astrocyte marker glial fibrillary acidic protein. This observation of a diffusion barrier between the AP and NTS resolves a long-standing dispute about whether the NTS is a structural extension of the AP with a leaky BBB.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • 2',3'-Cyclic-Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases / analysis
  • Animals
  • Area Postrema / ultrastructure*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier*
  • Diffusion
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Solitary Nucleus / ultrastructure*
  • Tight Junctions / ultrastructure


  • 2',3'-Cyclic-Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases