Molecular cross talk between the nervous and vascular systems is necessary to maintain the correct coupling of organ structure and function. Molecular pathways shared by both systems are emerging as major players in the communication of the neuronal compartment with the endothelium. Here we review different aspects of this cross talk and how vessels influence the development and homeostasis of the nervous system. Beyond the classical role of the vasculature as a conduit to deliver oxygen and metabolites needed for the energy-demanding neuronal compartment, vessels emerge as powerful signaling systems that control and instruct a variety of cellular processes during the development of neurons and glia, such as migration, differentiation, and structural connectivity. Moreover, a broad spectrum of mild to severe vascular dysfunctions occur in various pathologies of the nervous system, suggesting that mild structural and functional changes at the neurovascular interface may underlie cognitive decline in many of these pathological conditions.
Keywords: blood vessel–neuron–glia cell interactions; neurovascular congruency; neurovascular coupling; neurovascular pathology; neurovascular unit.