Apicobasal polarity of brain endothelial cells

J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2016 Feb;36(2):340-62. doi: 10.1177/0271678X15608644. Epub 2015 Oct 6.


Normal brain homeostasis depends on the integrity of the blood-brain barrier that controls the access of nutrients, humoral factors, and immune cells to the CNS. The blood-brain barrier is composed mainly of brain endothelial cells. Forming the interface between two compartments, they are highly polarized. Apical/luminal and basolateral/abluminal membranes differ in their lipid and (glyco-)protein composition, allowing brain endothelial cells to secrete or transport soluble factors in a polarized manner and to maintain blood flow. Here, we summarize the basic concepts of apicobasal cell polarity in brain endothelial cells. To address potential molecular mechanisms underlying apicobasal polarity in brain endothelial cells, we draw on investigations in epithelial cells and discuss how polarity may go awry in neurological diseases.

Keywords: Crumbs; Par complex; Polarized secretion; cerebral cavernous malformations; scribble.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiology
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain / ultrastructure*
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Cell Polarity / physiology*
  • Endothelial Cells / physiology*
  • Endothelial Cells / ultrastructure*
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans