Blood-brain interfaces in vertebrates: a comparative approach

Am J Physiol. 1984 Mar;246(3 Pt 2):R277-88. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.1984.246.3.R277.


The neuronal microenvironment in the vertebrate brain is isolated from plasma by a series of selective membranes, including the blood-brain barrier, the choroid plexus, and the meningeal barrier. This review deals with the structure and function of these selective membranes in the different vertebrate classes. Present knowledge indicates that all vertebrates have brain barrier membranes and, further, that functional characteristics of these membranes are basically similar in all the vertebrate classes. The blood-brain barrier (or capillary-glial complex) and the meningeal barrier have many of the properties of a tight epithelium, including the presence of tight junctions and specific transport mechanisms. The choroidal epithelium is a typical secretory epithelium. The functional significance of the specialized membranes located at the blood-brain interface is considered, and we suggest that the phylogenetic development of a blood-brain barrier provided neurons of the vertebrate brain with a unique extracellular milieu optimal both for synaptic communication and for nonsynaptic communication via the entire extracellular space.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Amphibians / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Birds / metabolism
  • Blood-Brain Barrier*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / physiology
  • Choroid Plexus / metabolism
  • Extracellular Space / metabolism
  • Fishes / classification
  • Fishes / metabolism
  • Membranes / metabolism
  • Meninges / metabolism
  • Reptiles / metabolism
  • Terminology as Topic
  • Time Factors
  • Vertebrates / metabolism*