Brain perivascular macrophages: characterization and functional roles in health and disease

J Mol Med (Berl). 2017 Nov;95(11):1143-1152. doi: 10.1007/s00109-017-1573-x. Epub 2017 Aug 7.


Perivascular macrophages (PVM) are a distinct population of resident brain macrophages characterized by a close association with the cerebral vasculature. PVM migrate from the yolk sac into the brain early in development and, like microglia, are likely to be a self-renewing cell population that, in the normal state, is not replenished by circulating monocytes. Increasing evidence implicates PVM in several disease processes, ranging from brain infections and immune activation to regulation of the hypothalamic-adrenal axis and neurovascular-neurocognitive dysfunction in the setting of hypertension, Alzheimer disease pathology, or obesity. These effects involve crosstalk between PVM and cerebral endothelial cells, interaction with circulating immune cells, and/or production of reactive oxygen species. Overall, the available evidence supports the idea that PVM are a key component of the brain-resident immune system with broad implications for the pathogenesis of major brain diseases. A better understanding of the biology and pathobiology of PVM may lead to new insights and therapeutic strategies for a wide variety of brain diseases.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Brain perivascular macrophages; CNS infections; Cerebrovascular regulation; Immune-to-brain signaling.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / cytology*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / pathology
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Capillary Permeability
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Humans
  • Immunomodulation
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Microglia / immunology
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Microglia / pathology
  • Phenotype
  • Signal Transduction


  • Biomarkers