Capture, crawl, cross: the T cell code to breach the blood-brain barriers

Trends Immunol. 2012 Dec;33(12):579-89. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2012 Aug 25.


The central nervous system (CNS) is an immunologically privileged site to which access of circulating immune cells is tightly controlled by the endothelial blood-brain barrier (BBB; see Glossary) localized in CNS microvessels, and the epithelial blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier (BCSFB) within the choroid plexus. As a result of the specialized structure of the CNS barriers, immune cell entry into the CNS parenchyma involves two differently regulated steps: migration of immune cells across the BBB or BCSFB into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)-drained spaces of the CNS, followed by progression across the glia limitans into the CNS parenchyma. With a focus on multiple sclerosis (MS) and its animal models, this review summarizes the distinct molecular mechanisms required for immune cell migration across the different CNS barriers.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basement Membrane / cytology
  • Basement Membrane / immunology
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / cytology
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / immunology*
  • Cell Movement*
  • Central Nervous System / cytology
  • Central Nervous System / immunology
  • Humans
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*