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Review
, 20 (21)

Structure and Junctional Complexes of Endothelial, Epithelial and Glial Brain Barriers

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Review

Structure and Junctional Complexes of Endothelial, Epithelial and Glial Brain Barriers

Mariana Castro Dias et al. Int J Mol Sci.

Abstract

The homeostasis of the central nervous system (CNS) is ensured by the endothelial, epithelial, mesothelial and glial brain barriers, which strictly control the passage of molecules, solutes and immune cells. While the endothelial blood-brain barrier (BBB) and the epithelial blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier (BCSFB) have been extensively investigated, less is known about the epithelial and mesothelial arachnoid barrier and the glia limitans. Here, we summarize current knowledge of the cellular composition of the brain barriers with a specific focus on describing the molecular constituents of their junctional complexes. We propose that the brain barriers maintain CNS immune privilege by dividing the CNS into compartments that differ with regard to their role in immune surveillance of the CNS. We close by providing a brief overview on experimental tools allowing for reliable in vivo visualization of the brain barriers and their junctional complexes and thus the respective CNS compartments.

Keywords: adherens junctions; arachnoid barrier; blood-brain barrier; blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier; brain barriers; glia limitans; neurovascular unit; tight junctions.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Schematic representation of the components of the neurovascular unit at the level of brain capillaries and post-capillary venules. Drawings of the individual cell types were adapted from Servier Medical Art (http://smart.servier.com/), licensed under a Creative Common Attribution 3.0 Generic License.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Schematic representation of the junctional complexes of the BBB. The proteins that compose the tight and adherens junctions are connected to the cytoskeleton via intracellular scaffolding proteins, ZO-1, ZO-2 and AF-6. Despite being expressed at low levels by the BBB endothelial cells [106], the subcellular location and function of claudin-12 remains to be defined. The forms of the individual proteins were adapted from Servier Medical Art (http://smart.servier.com/), licensed under a Creative Common Attribution 3.0 Generic License.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Schematic representation of the junctional complexes of the BCSFB at the choroid plexus. In similarity to the BBB, the proteins that compose the tight and adherens junctions of the choroid plexus BCSFB are connected to the cytoskeleton via intracellular scaffolding proteins and are localized in the apical part of the choroid plexus epithelial cells. The shapes of the proteins were adapted from Servier Medical Art (http://smart.servier.com/), licensed under a Creative Common Attribution 3.0 Generic License.
Figure 4
Figure 4
Schematic representation of the meningeal layers. The different layers and cellular composition of the meningeal layers are displayed. Tight junctions are highlighted between the arachnoid barrier cells as parallel lines, with adherens junctions, desmosomes and gap junctions also being represented. The shapes of the cell types were adapted from Servier Medical Art (http://smart.servier.com/), licensed under a Creative Common Attribution 3.0 Generic License.
Figure 5
Figure 5
Representative images of the cranial and spinal cord window 2P-IVM imaging of the claudin-5-GFP reporter mouse. (a) The cranial window was placed over the right hemisphere of the mouse brain as depicted on the insert. Second harmonic generation in blue derives from collagen fibers in the dura mater. The strong GFP signal visible throughout the brain endothelial cells allows for imaging of the vessels along the entire vascular tree. (b) Cranial window region from (a) after removal of the dura mater. (c) Cervical spinal cord window. High magnification image showing the dorsal vein and branching veins. Scale bars = 100µm.
Figure 6
Figure 6
Visualization of CNS and meningeal endothelial AJs using the VE-Cadherin-GFP reporter mouse. (a) Cranial window allowing to visualize meningeal, subarachnoid, subpial and cortical vascular VE-cadherin-GFP+ AJs. (b) Cranial window preparation from (a) highlighting blood vessels after i.v. injection of TRITC Dextran. (c) Overlay of a and b and the second harmonic generation of the collagen fibers in the dura allow to distinguish VE-cadherin-GFP+ TRITC+ blood vessels and VE-cadherin-GFP+ TRITCneg lymphatic vessels in the dura mater. Examples of blood and lymphatic vessels of similar caliber size are highlighted with a yellow and red arrowhead, respectively. The cranial window was placed over the right hemisphere of the mouse brain as depicted in the insert below (a). Top row—3D stack, bottom—XZ maximum intensity projection of 20 µm along Y at the cross section highlighted at the top. Scale bars = 90µm.

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