Neurochemical coupled actions of transmitters in the microvasculature of the brain

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. Summer 1986;10(2):79-101. doi: 10.1016/0149-7634(86)90020-5.


The discovery that monoamine nerves end on the central microvessels of the choroid plexus, pia-arachnoid and parenchyma has prompted an intense investigation as to their physiological and neuropathological roles. The source of the monoamine fibers to the pial vessels and choroid plexus was shown to be the superior cervical ganglion. Ganglionic stimulation causes vasoconstriction or vasodilation of pial vessels, an event depending upon the functional ratio of alpha to beta adrenergic receptors. Moreover, stimulation of the superior cervical ganglion evokes an inhibition of cerebrospinal fluid formation in choroid plexus. The locus coeruleus is the site of adrenergic nerve supply to the parenchymal capillaries and stimulation of this nucleus increases capillary permeability to small molecules and water. Neurotransmitter receptors (adrenergic, histamine, adenosine, dopamine, prostacyclin, prostaglandins and specific amino acids or neuropeptides) have been identified on microvessels and in many instances these transmitter actions are coupled to cyclic AMP synthesis. Moreover, cyclic AMP has been shown to increase the rate of capillary endothelial pinocytosis and produce brain edema. In small vessels containing smooth muscle cells cyclic AMP production improves cerebral blood flow via an initiation of vasodilatory processes. The presence of receptors for serotonin and acetylcholine have likewise been demonstrated to occur on cerebral microvessels. Limited information is available as to the receptor coupled actions of these two transmitters, but cholinergic mechanisms may act to restrict catecholamine-induced formation of cyclic AMP. Altered sensitivity of microvessels to neurotransmitters has been demonstrated following conditions of stroke, hypertension, aging, diabetes and X-irradiation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / physiology
  • Adenosine / physiology
  • Adenylyl Cyclases / metabolism
  • Amino Acids / physiology
  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier
  • Brain / blood supply*
  • Choroid Plexus / blood supply
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Epinephrine / physiology
  • Guanylate Cyclase / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Microcirculation / innervation
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology*
  • Norepinephrine / physiology
  • Pia Mater / blood supply
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / physiology
  • Serotonin / physiology


  • Amino Acids
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter
  • Serotonin
  • Adenylyl Cyclases
  • Guanylate Cyclase
  • Adenosine
  • Acetylcholine
  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine
  • Epinephrine