Ultrastructure of capillary walls in human brain tumors

Acta Neuropathol. 1989;78(6):561-71. doi: 10.1007/BF00691283.


Changes in capillary walls between human glial, non-glial and metastatic brain tumors were studied with conventional ultrathin section and freeze-fracture replica techniques. The following results were obtained. (1) In glial tumors, ultrathin section studies showed cell junctions of the capillaries were either short or elongate. Moreover, endothelial hyperplasia, surface infolding of endothelial cells, irregularity of the basal lamina and a large extravascular space were observed. Freeze-fracture replicas of capillary endothelium showed tight junctions as two to seven strands. In addition, pinocytotic vesicles had increased markedly and were an average of 25 per microns 2. Both ultrathin and freeze fracture studies showed that, in contrast to malignant gliomas, there were only slight changes in benign astrocytomas. (2) In non-glial tumors, ultrathin sections showed surface infoldings, increased vesicles, many fenestrations of endothelial cells, irregularity of basal lamina and enlarged perivascular space. Freeze-fracture replicas of vascular endothelium, showed that the average number of pinocytotic vesicles and fenestrations were 25 and 22 per microns 2, respectively. Moreover, the tight junction was composed of one or two strands which appeared to be a discontinuous array of particles. (3) In metastatic brain tumors, ultrathin studies showed capillary endothelia were proliferated, had marked infolding, and showed an increased number of pinocytotic vesicles and many fenestrations. Moreover, short and elongate intercellular junctions were presented but no open junction was detected. Finally the basal lamina lost its three-layered appearance and was irregular in width. Freeze-fracture replicas showed pinocytotic vesicles had increased and were 24 per microns 2 on average in four cases, but fenestrations and tight junctions could not be detected. The most fundamental feature of vessels in these three different kinds of tumors was whether they were fenestrated or not. Glial tumors were non-fenestrated, whereas non-glial and metastatic tumors were fenestrated.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Brain Neoplasms / secondary
  • Brain Neoplasms / ultrastructure*
  • Capillaries / ultrastructure*
  • Freeze Fracturing
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neoplasms, Nerve Tissue / blood supply
  • Neoplasms, Nerve Tissue / secondary
  • Neoplasms, Nerve Tissue / ultrastructure*