The aim of this paper was to determine whether prolonged drinking of lead acetate-containing water by adult rats, which imitates environmental exposure to lead (Pb), affects some morphological and biochemical properties of rat brain microvessels. We noted a significant increase of lead level in capillaries and synaptosomes obtained from brains of rats under chronic toxicity conditions. Intravenously injected horseradish peroxidase (HRP) was used to evaluate the functional state of the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The results indicate that, systematically administered at low doses, lead induces BBB dysfunction. The changes, revealed in light microscopy and confirmed by electron microscopic studies, are typical for "leaky" microvessels, reported for variety of neuropathological conditions associated with BBB damage. Enhanced pinocytotic activity of the endothelial cells and the opening of interendothelial tight junctions, together with enormous phagocytizing action of the pericytes, are the most characteristic ultrastructural features noted. The presence of specific type of perivascular cells containing droplets of lipids in the cytoplasm, together with changes in phospholipid profile in brain capillaries, suggest that altered lipid composition of membranes may, at least in part, be responsible for changes in observed membrane permeability.