Activated macrophages and the blood-brain barrier: inflammation after CNS injury leads to increases in putative inhibitory molecules

Exp Neurol. 1997 Dec;148(2):587-603. doi: 10.1006/exnr.1997.6701.


The cellular responses to spinal cord or brain injury include the production of molecules that modulate wound healing. This study examined the upregulation of chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans, a family of molecules present in the wound healing matrix that may inhibit axon regeneration in the central nervous system (CNS) after trauma. We have demonstrated increases in these putative inhibitory molecules in brain and spinal cord injury models, and we observed a close correlation between the tissue distribution of their upregulation and the presence of inflammation and a compromised blood-brain barrier. We determined that the presence of degenerating and dying axons injured by direct trauma does not provide a sufficient signal to induce the increases in proteoglycans observed after injury. Activated macrophages, their products, or other serum components that cross a compromised blood-brain barrier may provide a stimulus for changes in extracellular matrix molecules after CNS injury. While gliosis is associated with increased levels of proteoglycans, not all reactive astrocytes are associated with augmented amounts of these extracellular matrix molecules, which suggests a heterogeneity among glial cells that exhibit a reactive phenotype. Chondroitin sulfate also demarcates developing cavities of secondary necrosis, implicating these types of boundary molecules in the protective response of the CNS to trauma.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / pathology
  • Astrocytes / physiology
  • Axons / pathology
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiology*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Injuries / pathology
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Female
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / analysis
  • Inflammation
  • Macrophage Activation*
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Nerve Crush
  • Nerve Degeneration
  • Proteoglycans / biosynthesis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spinal Cord / pathology
  • Spinal Cord / physiopathology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / pathology
  • Time Factors


  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Proteoglycans