Cerebral and pial microvessels: differential expression of gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase and alkaline phosphatase

Anat Embryol (Berl). 1999 Jan;199(1):29-34. doi: 10.1007/s004290050206.


Pial microvessels have several important blood-brain barrier (BBB) characteristics in common with cerebral microvessels, despite lacking their astrocytic ensheathment. We have therefore determined whether they have the same distribution of two enzymes, gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGTP) and alkaline phosphatase, both of which are known to be astrocyte-dependent. GGTP was absent from all rat pial microvessels but strongly present in brain cortical capillaries. Alkaline phosphatase was heterogeneously expressed in pial microvessels, including capillaries, but strongly positive in brain cortical capillaries. Diffusible, inductive factors produced by astrocytes could account for these differences in enzyme distribution between the two vessel types. Furthermore, differences in expression between the two markers may reflect their differing sensitivities to the astrocytic factors. Caution is urged in the common usage of the pial microvessel as a model system in BBB studies.

MeSH terms

  • Alkaline Phosphatase / biosynthesis*
  • Animals
  • Arterioles / enzymology
  • Capillaries / enzymology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / blood supply*
  • Cerebral Cortex / enzymology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / enzymology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / ultrastructure
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Pericytes / enzymology
  • Pericytes / ultrastructure
  • Pia Mater / blood supply*
  • Pia Mater / enzymology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Venules / enzymology
  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase / biosynthesis*


  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase
  • Alkaline Phosphatase