Interaction between blood-brain barrier and glymphatic system in solute clearance

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2018 Jul;90:26-33. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.03.028. Epub 2018 Mar 30.


Neurovascular pathology concurs with protein accumulation, as the brain vasculature is important for waste clearance. Interstitial solutes, such as amyloid-β, were previously thought to be primarily cleared from the brain by blood-brain barrier transport. Recently, the glymphatic system was discovered, in which cerebrospinal fluid is exchanged with interstitial fluid, facilitated by the aquaporin-4 water channels on the astroglial endfeet. Glymphatic flow can clear solutes from the interstitial space. Blood-brain barrier transport and glymphatic clearance likely serve complementary roles with partially overlapping mechanisms providing a well-conditioned neuronal environment. Disruption of these mechanisms can lead to protein accumulation and may initiate neurodegenerative disorders, for instance amyloid-β accumulation and Alzheimer's disease. Although both mechanisms seem to have a similar purpose, their interaction has not been clearly discussed previously. This review focusses on this interaction in healthy and pathological conditions. Future health initiatives improving waste clearance might delay or even prevent onset of neurodegenerative disorders. Defining glymphatic flow kinetics using imaging may become an alternative way to identify those at risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Amyloid-β; BBB; Blood-brain barrier; Clearance; Glymphatic system; Imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / immunology
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Aquaporin 4 / metabolism
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Glymphatic System / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Kinetics


  • Aquaporin 4