Cultured pericytes from human brain show phenotypic and functional differences associated with differential CD90 expression

Sci Rep. 2016 May 24;6:26587. doi: 10.1038/srep26587.


The human brain is a highly vascular organ in which the blood-brain barrier (BBB) tightly regulates molecules entering the brain. Pericytes are an integral cell type of the BBB, regulating vascular integrity, neuroinflammation, angiogenesis and wound repair. Despite their importance, identifying pericytes amongst other perivascular cell types and deciphering their specific role in the neurovasculature remains a challenge. Using primary adult human brain cultures and fluorescent-activated cell sorting, we identified two CD73(+)CD45(-) mesenchymal populations that showed either high or low CD90 expression. CD90 is known to be present on neurons in the brain and peripheral blood vessels. We found in the human brain, that CD90 immunostaining localised to the neurovasculature and often associated with pericytes. In vitro, CD90(+) cells exhibited higher basal proliferation, lower expression of markers αSMA and CD140b, produced less extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, and exhibited lesser pro-inflammatory responses when compared to the CD90(-) population. Thus, CD90 distinguishes two interrelated, yet functionally distinct pericyte populations in the adult human brain that may have discrete roles in neurovascular function, immune response and scar formation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / cytology
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pericytes / cytology*
  • Pericytes / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Thy-1 Antigens / metabolism*
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Thy-1 Antigens