Oligodendrocyte precursor cells support blood-brain barrier integrity via TGF-β signaling

PLoS One. 2014 Jul 31;9(7):e103174. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103174. eCollection 2014.


Trophic coupling between cerebral endothelium and their neighboring cells is required for the development and maintenance of blood-brain barrier (BBB) function. Here we report that oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) secrete soluble factor TGF-β1 to support BBB integrity. Firstly, we prepared conditioned media from OPC cultures and added them to cerebral endothelial cultures. Our pharmacological experiments showed that OPC-conditioned media increased expressions of tight-junction proteins and decreased in vitro BBB permeability by activating TGB-β-receptor-MEK/ERK signaling pathway. Secondly, our immuno-electron microscopic observation revealed that in neonatal mouse brains, OPCs attach to cerebral endothelial cells via basal lamina. And finally, we developed a novel transgenic mouse line that TGF-β1 is knocked down specifically in OPCs. Neonates of these OPC-specific TGF-β1 deficient mice (OPC-specific TGF-β1 partial KO mice: PdgfraCre/Tgfb1flox/wt mice or OPC-specific TGF-β1 total KO mice: PdgfraCre/Tgfb1flox/flox mice) exhibited cerebral hemorrhage and loss of BBB function. Taken together, our current study demonstrates that OPCs increase BBB tightness by upregulating tight junction proteins via TGF-β signaling. Although astrocytes and pericytes are well-known regulators of BBB maturation and maintenance, these findings indicate that OPCs also play a pivotal role in promoting BBB integrity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier*
  • Neural Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Oligodendroglia / cytology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism*


  • Transforming Growth Factor beta