Contribution of brain pericytes in blood-brain barrier formation and maintenance: a transcriptomic study of cocultured human endothelial cells derived from hematopoietic stem cells

Fluids Barriers CNS. 2020 Jul 28;17(1):48. doi: 10.1186/s12987-020-00208-1.


Formation, maintenance, and repair of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) are critical for central nervous system homeostasis. The interaction of endothelial cells (ECs) with brain pericytes is known to induce BBB characteristics in brain ECs during embryogenesis and can be used to differentiate human ECs from stem cell source in in vitro BBB models. However, the molecular events involved in BBB maturation are not fully understood. To this end, human ECs derived from hematopoietic stem cells were cultivated with either primary bovine or cell line-derived human brain pericytes to induce BBB formation. Subsequently, the transcriptomic profiles of solocultured vs. cocultured ECs were analysed over time by Massive Analysis of cDNA Ends (MACE) technology. This RNA sequencing method is a 3'-end targeted, tag-based, reduced representation transcriptome profiling technique, that can reliably quantify all polyadenylated transcripts including those with low expression. By analysing the generated transcriptomic profiles, we can explore the molecular processes responsible for the functional changes observed in ECs in coculture with brain pericytes (e.g. barrier tightening, changes in the expression of transporters and receptors). Our results identified several up- and downregulated genes and signaling pathways that provide a valuable data source to further delineate complex molecular processes that are involved in BBB formation and BBB maintenance. In addition, this data provides a source to identify novel targets for central nervous system drug delivery strategies.

Keywords: BBB formation3; Blood–brain barrier1; Brain endothelial cells6; Brain pericytes8; Central nervous system5; Human hematopoietic stem cells7; In vitro4; Transcriptome2.

MeSH terms

  • Blood-Brain Barrier / growth & development*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism*
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Pericytes / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcriptome*