Morphology of cerebral arteries

Pharmacol Ther. 1995 Apr;66(1):149-73. doi: 10.1016/0163-7258(94)00071-a.


A comparison of the major cerebral arteries between humans and rats shows many similarities, including anomalies in their general organization, the structure of these vessels at the light and electron microscope levels and their morphological changes associated with cerebral vascular diseases. The general organization of the major cerebral arteries shows the following main differences between humans and rats. In rats, the internal carotid arteries have become an integral part of the circle of Willis. In the anterior cerebral arteries, a common variation in humans is the underdevelopment of one of the two arteries, whereas in rats, buttonhole-like structures are common in one or both arteries. The anterior communicating artery present in humans is absent in rats. The olfactory artery is prominent in rats, but absent in humans. The posterior communicating artery in humans is the most variable component of the circle of Willis, being asymmetric in its origin, diameters and branches. Similarly, the posterior cerebral arteries in rats often exhibit asymmetrical origin from the basilar artery. There was some confusion in the literature regarding the name of the posterior cerebral arteries in rats, but this was caused mainly by misquotations and incorrect interpretations of the papers. In humans, most aneurysms occur in the anterior half of the circle of Willis, and the incidence is higher in females than males; the middle cerebral artery is most often the one to become occluded, and the vertebral arteries are common sites for thrombosis. The various channels that constitute collateral circulation in humans provide a margin of safety, so that in case of cerebral occlusion due to thrombosis, atherosclerosis, or vasospasm related to hemorrhage, blood supply to the affected area can be maintained through these collaterals. Collateral circulation is also present in rats. However, in rats, information on the presence of various types of aneurysms, their location and frequency in normal and experimental models of hypertension and stroke is still lacking. Cerebral arteries from humans and rats are characterized by the absence of external elastic lamina, as compared with systemic arteries. A type of multipolar cell resembling the interstitial cell of Cajal is present in the cerebral arteries of humans. Its function is unknown. Earlier reports of cerebral valves have been shown to represent intimal cushions near the branching points of the cerebral arteries. Intravascular bridges present in human cerebral arteries, have not been reported in rats. Finally, the presence of vascular remodeling, as found in the cerebral arterioles of hypertensive rats, remains to be established in the cerebral arterioles of human hypertensives.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basilar Artery / metabolism
  • Basilar Artery / pathology
  • Basilar Artery / ultrastructure*
  • Brain / blood supply*
  • Carotid Arteries / metabolism
  • Carotid Arteries / pathology
  • Carotid Arteries / ultrastructure*
  • Cerebral Arteries / metabolism
  • Cerebral Arteries / pathology
  • Cerebral Arteries / ultrastructure*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / etiology
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / pathology*
  • Collateral Circulation / physiology
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Vascular Resistance / physiology
  • Vertebral Artery / metabolism
  • Vertebral Artery / pathology
  • Vertebral Artery / ultrastructure*