A vertebrate-like blood--brain barrier, with intraganglionic blood channels and occluding junctions, in the scorpion

Tissue Cell. 1981;13(3):557-76. doi: 10.1016/0040-8166(81)90027-6.


India ink and ionic lanthanum injections have revealed that the central nervous system (CNS) of the scorpion possesses a highly vascularized cephalothoracic ganglionic mass. It, together with other abdominal ganglia which form a ventral nerve cord, are all ensheathed by an outer layer of modified glial, or perineurial, cells. These cells resemble those which line the blood channels permeating the CNS, in exhibiting both inverted gap and tight junctions. Although the latter show close or fused membrane appositions, lanthanum appears to penetrate past a number, but not all, of them. Freeze-fracturing reveals that these junctions are composed of E-face particles aligned into a network of rows, or ridges, which are frequently discontinuous, especially near the periphery of the perineurium. This produces a somewhat 'leaky' system but occlusion to tracers occurs ultimately, for in the CNS none can be found beyond the perineurium. The existence of this perineurial blood-brain barrier is also demonstrable electrophysiologically where cations such as Mg2+ are unable to penetrate beyond the perineurial layer although they can, it seems, leak in via the blood vascular system. Relative differences in tightness between the perineurium and the cells lining the blood channels may be attributed to differences in the relative number of discontinuous ridges. This is borne out by the observation that the peripheral nervous system has a highly attenuated perineurium with many fewer junctions, and some of these nerves tend to be leaky with respect to tracer penetration. In fixed material the junctional ridges may fracture on to the E-face or partly on both the EF and PF, while in unfixed tissue they are usually found on the PF. In both cases they exhibit complementary grooves that are coincident with the ridges across membrane transitions; in such cases the cell membranes are fused with concomitant obliteration of the intercellular space. These tight junctions, often closely associated with EF gap junctional particle aggregates which may be very loosely clustered, appear to form the basis of the observed blood-brain barrier in the scorpion CNS.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier*
  • Central Nervous System / physiology
  • Central Nervous System / ultrastructure*
  • Freeze Fracturing
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Scorpions / physiology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Staining and Labeling