The "Frail" Brain Blood Barrier in Neurodegenerative Diseases: Role of Early Disruption of Endothelial Cell-to-Cell Connections

Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Sep 10;19(9):2693. doi: 10.3390/ijms19092693.


The main neurovascular unit of the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) consists of a cellular component, which includes endothelial cells, astrocytes, pericytes, microglia, neurons, and oligodendrocytes as well as a non-cellular component resulting from the extracellular matrix. The endothelial cells are the major vital components of the BBB able to preserve the brain homeostasis. These cells are situated along the demarcation line between the bloodstream and the brain. Therefore, an alteration or the progressive disruption of the endothelial layer may clearly impair the brain homeostasis. The proper functioning of the brain endothelial cells is generally ensured by two elements: (1) the presence of junction proteins and (2) the preservation of a specific polarity involving an apical-luminal and a basolateral-abluminal membrane. This review intends to identify the molecular mechanisms underlying BBB function and their changes occurring in early stages of neurodegenerative processes in order to develop novel therapeutic strategies aimed to counteract neurodegenerative disorders.

Keywords: brain blood barrier; endothelial dysfunction; neurodegeneration.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood-Brain Barrier / cytology*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism
  • Cell Communication
  • Cell Polarity
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Junctions / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism*


  • Membrane Proteins