The Blood-Brain Barrier, an Evolving Concept Based on Technological Advances and Cell-Cell Communications

Cells. 2021 Dec 31;11(1):133. doi: 10.3390/cells11010133.


The construction of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which is a natural barrier for maintaining brain homeostasis, is the result of a meticulous organisation in space and time of cell-cell communication processes between the endothelial cells that carry the BBB phenotype, the brain pericytes, the glial cells (mainly the astrocytes), and the neurons. The importance of these communications for the establishment, maturation and maintenance of this unique phenotype had already been suggested in the pioneering work to identify and demonstrate the BBB. As for the history of the BBB, the evolution of analytical techniques has allowed knowledge to evolve on the cell-cell communication pathways involved, as well as on the role played by the cells constituting the neurovascular unit in the maintenance of the BBB phenotype, and more particularly the brain pericytes. This review summarises the key points of the history of the BBB, from its origin to the current knowledge of its physiology, as well as the cell-cell communication pathways identified so far during its development, maintenance, and pathophysiological alteration.

Keywords: blood–brain barrier; cell–cell communication; development; historical description; maintenance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / cytology*
  • Cell Communication*
  • Embryonic Development
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Phenotype