Pericytes regulate vascular immune homeostasis in the CNS

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Mar 9;118(10):e2016587118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2016587118.


Pericytes regulate the development of organ-specific characteristics of the brain vasculature such as the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and astrocytic end-feet. Whether pericytes are involved in the control of leukocyte trafficking in the adult central nervous system (CNS), a process tightly regulated by CNS vasculature, remains elusive. Using adult pericyte-deficient mice (Pdgfb ret/ret ), we show that pericytes limit leukocyte infiltration into the CNS during homeostasis and autoimmune neuroinflammation. The permissiveness of the vasculature toward leukocyte trafficking in Pdgfb ret/ret mice inversely correlates with vessel pericyte coverage. Upon induction of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), pericyte-deficient mice die of severe atypical EAE, which can be reversed with fingolimod, indicating that the mortality is due to the massive influx of immune cells into the brain. Additionally, administration of anti-VCAM-1 and anti-ICAM-1 antibodies reduces leukocyte infiltration and diminishes the severity of atypical EAE symptoms of Pdgfb ret/ret mice, indicating that the proinflammatory endothelium due to absence of pericytes facilitates exaggerated neuroinflammation. Furthermore, we show that the presence of myelin peptide-specific peripheral T cells in Pdgfb ret/ret ;2D2 tg mice leads to the development of spontaneous neurological symptoms paralleled by the massive influx of leukocytes into the brain. These findings indicate that intrinsic changes within brain vasculature can promote the development of a neuroinflammatory disorder.

Keywords: MOG35–55–specific T cell receptor; autoimmune neuroinflammation; blood–brain barrier; leukocyte trafficking; pericyte.