The large apparent work capability of the blood-brain barrier: a study of the mitochondrial content of capillary endothelial cells in brain and other tissues of the rat

Ann Neurol. 1977 May;1(5):409-17. doi: 10.1002/ana.410010502.


Volumes of mitochondria in capillary endothelial cells were determined stereologically from electron micrographs of rat cerebellum, cerebral cortex, spinal cord, cauda equina, choroid plexus, anterior pituitary, median eminence of the hypothalamus, renal proximal tubules, skin, cardiac and skeletal muscle, lung, and renal glomerulus. The capillaries of the first four of these tissue types exhibit blood-brain barrier (BBB) characteristics of permeability and capillary ultrastructure and were found to have mitochondrial contents amounting to 8 to 11% of the endothelial cytoplasmic volume. Tissues from non-BBB regions were determined to have mitochondrial volumes of 2 to 5% of their respective cytoplasmic volumes, with a variety of capillary ultrastructures. The apparent excess metabloic work capability of the BBB suggested by this greater number of mitochondria may be related to maintenance of ion differentials between blood plasma and brain extracellular fluid, to extrachoroidal cerebrospinal fluid formation, or to maintaining the unique structural characteristics of central nervous system capillaries.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier*
  • Brain / ultrastructure*
  • Capillaries / ultrastructure
  • Capillary Permeability
  • Cell Communication
  • Cerebellar Cortex / ultrastructure
  • Cerebral Cortex / ultrastructure
  • Choroid Plexus / ultrastructure
  • Endothelium / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Kidney Glomerulus / ultrastructure
  • Kidney Tubules / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure*
  • Mitochondria, Heart / ultrastructure
  • Mitochondria, Muscle / ultrastructure
  • Rats
  • Spinal Cord / ultrastructure