Blood-brain barrier (BBB) dysfunction underlies the pathogenesis of many neurological diseases. Platelet-derived growth factor receptor-alpha (PDGFRα) induces hemorrhagic transformation (HT) downstream of tissue plasminogen activator in thrombolytic therapy of acute stroke. Thus, PDGFs are attractive therapeutic targets for BBB dysfunction. In the present study, we examined the role of PDGF signaling in the process of tissue remodeling after middle cerebral arterial occlusion (MCAO) in mice. Firstly, we found that imatinib increased lesion size after permanent MCAO in wild-type mice. Moreover, imatinib-induced HT only when administrated in the subacute phase of MCAO, but not in the acute phase. Secondly, we generated genetically mutated mice (C-KO mice) that showed decreased expression of perivascular PDGFRα. Additionally, transient MCAO experiments were performed in these mice. We found that the ischemic lesion size was not affected; however, the recruitment of PDGFRα/type I collagen-expressing perivascular cells was significantly downregulated, and HT and IgG leakage was augmented only in the subacute phase of stroke in C-KO mice. In both experiments, we found that the expression of tight junction proteins and PDGFRβ-expressing pericyte coverage was not significantly affected in imatinib-treated mice and in C-KO mice. The specific implication of PDGFRα signaling was suggestive of protective effects against BBB dysfunction during the subacute phase of stroke. Vascular TGF-β1 expression was downregulated in both imatinib-treated and C-KO mice, along with sustained levels of MMP9. Therefore, PDGFRα effects may be mediated by TGF-β1 which exerts potent protective effects in the BBB.
Keywords: Hemorrhagic transformation; Imatinib; Ischemic stroke; PDGF receptor-alpha; Perivascular fibroblast-like cells.