The blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier: structure and functional significance

Methods Mol Biol. 2011;686:101-31. doi: 10.1007/978-1-60761-938-3_4.


The choroid plexus (CP) of the blood-CSF barrier (BCSFB) displays fundamentally different properties than blood-brain barrier (BBB). With brisk blood flow (10 × brain) and highly permeable capillaries, the human CP provides the CNS with a high turnover rate of fluid (∼400,000 μL/day) containing micronutrients, peptides, and hormones for neuronal networks. Renal-like basement membranes in microvessel walls and underneath the epithelium filter large proteins such as ferritin and immunoglobulins. Type IV collagen (α3, α4, and α5) in the subepithelial basement membrane confers kidney-like permselectivity. As in the glomerulus, so also in CP, the basolateral membrane utrophin A and colocalized dystrophin impart structural stability, transmembrane signaling, and ion/water homeostasis. Extensive infoldings of the plasma-facing basal labyrinth together with lush microvilli at the CSF-facing membrane afford surface area, as great as that at BBB, for epithelial solute and water exchange. CSF formation occurs by basolateral carrier-mediated uptake of Na+, Cl-, and HCO3-, followed by apical release via ion channel conductance and osmotic flow of water through AQP1 channels. Transcellular epithelial active transport and secretion are energized and channeled via a highly dense organelle network of mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, and Golgi; bleb formation occurs at the CSF surface. Claudin-2 in tight junctions helps to modulate the lower electrical resistance and greater permeability in CP than at BBB. Still, ratio analyses of influx coefficients (Kin) for radiolabeled solutes indicate that paracellular diffusion of small nonelectrolytes (e.g., urea and mannitol) through tight junctions is restricted; molecular sieving is proportional to solute size. Protein/peptide movement across BCSFB is greatly limited, occurring by paracellular leaks through incomplete tight junctions and low-capacity transcellular pinocytosis/exocytosis. Steady-state concentration ratios, CSF/plasma, ranging from 0.003 for IgG to 0.80 for urea, provide insight on plasma solute penetrability, barrier permeability, and CSF sink action to clear substances from CNS.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / anatomy & histology
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / cytology
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiology
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / ultrastructure
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / physiology*
  • Choroid Plexus / blood supply*
  • Choroid Plexus / cytology
  • Choroid Plexus / physiology*
  • Choroid Plexus / ultrastructure
  • Humans