Astrocytes induce blood-brain barrier properties in endothelial cells

Nature. 1987 Jan 15-21;325(6101):253-7. doi: 10.1038/325253a0.


The highly impermeable tight junctions between endothelial cells forming the capillaries and venules in the central nervous system (CNS) of higher vertebrates are thought to be responsible for the blood-brain barrier that impedes the passive diffusion of solutes from the blood into the extracellular space of the CNS. The ability of CNS endothelial cells to form a blood-brain barrier is not intrinsic to these cells but instead is induced by the CNS environment: Stewart and Wiley demonstrated that when avascular tissue from 3-day-old quail brain is transplanted into the coelomic cavity of chick embryos, the chick endothelial cells that vascularize the quail brain grafts form a competent blood-brain barrier; on the other hand, when avascular embryonic quail coelomic grafts are transplanted into embryonic chick brain, the chick endothelial cells that invade the mesenchymal tissue grafts form leaky capillaries and venules. It is, however, not known which cells in the CNS are responsible for inducing endothelial cells to form the tight junctions characteristic of the blood-brain barrier. Astrocytes are the most likely candidates since their processes form endfeet that collectively surround CNS microvessels. In this report we provide direct evidence that astrocytes are capable of inducing blood-brain barrier properties in non-neural endothelial cells in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / physiology*
  • Astrocytes / ultrastructure
  • Blood-Brain Barrier*
  • Capillary Permeability
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Chick Embryo
  • Endothelium / ultrastructure
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / analysis
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Microcirculation
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains


  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein