Blood–Brain Barrier Permeability Post-Ischemia: History
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The impact of post-ischemic brain damage on the function of the BBB is the subject of intensive research, among others, in the context of preventing or treating neurodegenerative changes with the use of substances that would pass through the barrier to the damaged brain tissue. An ischemia-reperfusion episode causes a series of changes that increase the permeability of the BBB to cellular and non-cellular blood components, lead to the opening of tight junctions, and sometimes to diffuse leakage of all blood elements through the necrotic vessel wall.

  • brain ischemia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • blood–brain barrier

1. BBB Permeability Post-Ischemia

The impact of post-ischemic brain damage on the function of the BBB is currently the subject of intensive research, among others, in the context of preventing or treating neurodegenerative changes with the use of substances that would pass through the barrier to the damaged brain tissue. An ischemia-reperfusion episode causes a series of changes that increase the permeability of the BBB to cellular and non-cellular blood components, lead to the opening of tight junctions, and sometimes to diffuse leakage of all blood elements through the necrotic vessel wall [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11]. In ischemia-reperfusion injury of the BBB, two abnormal and characteristic features deserve attention. One is important given the chronic effects of extravasated substances, such as the neurotoxic β-amyloid peptide, in generating neurodegenerative irreversible neuropathology, and the other concerns the leakage of cellular elements of the blood e.g., platelets, resulting in acute, massive, and mechanical destruction of brain parenchyma [1][12][13]. On the other hand, cells of peripheral tissues and organs are known to continuously produce the neurotoxic β-amyloid peptide [14]. The ability of the β-amyloid peptide to cross the damaged BBB may lead to local neurotoxic effects on certain neuronal cell populations, including increased production and accumulation of β-amyloid peptide in the brain parenchyma [15][16]. Circulating β-amyloid peptide can be delivered to ischemic brain parenchyma and its microcirculation, and thus may contribute to brain amyloidosis after an ischemia-reperfusion episode in stroke patients [15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23].

2. Permeability of Non-Cellular Blood Elements through the Ischemic BBB in the Gray Matter

One year after transient cerebral ischemia in rats, brain slices demonstrated multifocal areas of extravasated horseradish peroxidase in gray matter used to assess the permeability of the BBB [1][2][4][5][24][25][26]. Light microscopic examination of vibratome brain sections revealed many diffuse and focal staining in the cortical layers of horseradish peroxidase. Many penetrating blood vessels also showed a reaction to horseradish peroxidase of the vessel walls. Horseradish peroxidase was seen in endothelial cells and outside the vessels. In other brain structures, such as the hippocampus, thalamus, basal ganglia, and cerebellum, diffuse as well as isolated multiple extravasation sites of horseradish peroxidase were found. The permeability of the BBB post-ischemia was not restricted to a specific gray matter brain structure, but was mainly dominated by the branching and bifurcation of blood vessels [1]. Overall, following cerebral ischemia, animals exhibited random and focal changes in gray matter in the BBB. Extravasations of horseradish peroxidase were localized in the perivascular space of microvessels, arterioles, and venules. Extravasations of horseradish peroxidase around the leaking vessels resembled “puffs of smoke”. The above changes in the ischemic BBB were accompanied by atrophy of the brain cortex and especially of the hippocampus [27][28][29].
Human β-amyloid peptide 1–42 was found after intravenous injection in the vascular walls and perivascular space in rat post-ischemic cortex with a survival of 3 months [15][16][30][31]. It should be noted that the β-amyloid peptide alone can cause dysfunction of BBB by disrupting endothelial functions and/or endothelial cell death [32][33][34].
Six months post-ischemia, animals showed increased perivascular immunoreactivity in gray matter for all parts of the amyloid protein precursor [28][35]. At survival times greater than 6 months, staining of only the β-amyloid peptide and C-terminal of amyloid protein precursor has been noted [2][24][25][26][27][36]. Staining of different parts of the precursor was mainly observed in the extracellular space in gray matter such as the cortex and hippocampus. Numerous extracellular accumulations of C-terminal of amyloid protein precursor and β-amyloid peptide adhered to or mainly embraced capillaries, spreading multifocally in gray matter. The accumulations had an irregular shape and were of various sizes and very well outlined.
The perivascular fragments of the amyloid protein precursor that surrounded the cerebral vessels formed perivascular cuffs or “puff of smoke”-like areas. In addition, the vascular lumen and pericytes and the inner and outer sides of the capillary walls accumulated fragments of the amyloid protein precursor. Accumulation of amyloid and C-terminal of amyloid protein precursor around cortex vessels indicates diffusion of the C-terminal of amyloid protein precursor and β-amyloid peptide from the microcirculatory compartment [2][15][16]. Strong perivascular and vascular amyloid accumulation has been demonstrated in the entorhinal cortex, hippocampus, and brain cortex.

3. Permeability of Non-Cellular Blood Elements through the Ischemic BBB in the White Matter

Post-ischemia BBB in the white matter showed progressive and chronic insufficiency [3][10][26]. Micro BBB changes predominated in periventricular and subcortical white matter and were random and spotty [3][10][26][37]. Extravasation of horseradish peroxidase was observed around the capillaries, arterioles, and venules [3]. Damaged endothelial cells and pericytes filled with horseradish peroxidase were less observed than in gray matter [1][4][5]. Perivascular immunoreactivity to all amyloid protein precursor fragments was evident in rats’ white matter up to 6 months post-ischemia [27][36]. After cerebral ischemia-reperfusion with a survival of >6 months, both the toxic C-terminal of the amyloid protein precursor and β-amyloid peptide around the BBB vessels, developing perivascular cuffs with rarefaction of the adjacent white matter and parallel oligodendrocyte staining were noted [2][3][24][25][26][27]. Accumulation of the C-terminal fragment of amyloid protein precursor and β-amyloid peptide dominated in the corpus callosum, subcortical region, and around the lateral ventricles [3][37]. These observations of BBB permeability were confirmed after intravenous administration of human β-amyloid peptide 1–42 after cerebral ischemia in a rat [15][16][30][38].

4. Permeability of Cellular Blood Elements through the Ischemic BBB in the Gray Matter

Platelet aggregation in cortical blood vessels has been observed for 1 year post-ischemia [2][24][29][39]. As a result of these changes, there were several vessels partially or completely blocked by platelets [24][39] and/or platelets with their membranous remnants [4]. Platelets were also visualized outside the microvessels in gray matter [2][24][39]. In the areas already presented, the endfeet of the astrocytes were heavily swollen [24]. Platelets in the vascular lumen dominated in capillaries and venules. The platelets usually had well-developed pseudopodia, which in many cases were in direct contact with the endothelium [39]. In addition, the projection of endothelial microvilli was directed toward the platelets in the lumen of the vessels [40]. The presented changes occurred in arterioles, venules, and capillaries, regardless of survival time after brain ischemia. In contrast, some data suggest that cerebral ischemia triggers the creation of platelet and leukocyte aggregates, which often interact with endothelial cells [41][42]. Many years of research indicate that leukocytes play a key role in cerebral ischemic episodes [12][13][43][44][45][46][47]. It is believed that leukocytes with platelets block microcirculation, which promotes the development of hypoperfusion and no-reflow phenomenon after cerebral ischemia [48]. Leukocytes cause pathological changes in neurons through the release and interaction of different types of inflammatory molecules [13][49][50]. Some data suggest that leukocytes, most likely neutrophils, are the key cellular source of matrix metalloproteinase-9 after cerebral ischemia [47]. Neutrophil matrix metalloproteinase-9 recruited to ischemic brain gray matter promotes further recruitment of neutrophils to the same areas of the brain in a positive feedback fashion and causes secondary alterations to the BBB [13]. Thus, neutrophil-derived matrix metalloproteinase-9 directly contributes to post-ischemic brain damage [47]. Studies of the BBB using an electron microscope allowed the identification of polymorphonuclear and mononuclear leukocytes adhering to the endothelial cells of capillaries and venules from the lumen side [46]. Observations of the projection of pseudopodia of leukocytes and endothelium facing each other indicate the attachment and adhesion of endothelial cells to white blood cells [46]. It is assumed that this phenomenon probably plays an important role in the passage of white blood cells through the endothelium. Leukocytes may reduce local cerebral blood flow by constricting and/or blocking cerebral blood vessels [6][51]. Increased neutrophil endothelial adhesion mediators and cytokines promote the migration of white blood cells across the ischemic BBB [52]. In this way, the recruitment of white blood cells appears to activate molecular mechanisms that lead to endothelial tight junction disruption, BBB insufficiency, and ultimately progressive brain gray matter damage with microbleeding [52][53][54][55][56][57].

5. Permeability of Cellular Blood Elements through the Ischemic BBB in the White Matter

Electron microscopy studies after cerebral ischemia-reperfusion injury with survival of up to 1 year have shown single platelet aggregates in and out of capillaries, venules, and arterioles in the white matter [24]. The platelets inside and outside the cerebral vessels were irregularly shaped and had numerous pseudopodia. Platelets were often attached to leaky microvascular endothelial cells. Single vessels were completely blocked by aggregating platelets and their membranous remnants [2][24].
Platelet aggregation along with red and white blood cells caused microblading and complete microcirculation occlusion, resulting in local areas without recirculation after cerebral ischemia [2][24][29][39][41][42][53][55][56][57][58]. The no-reflow phenomenon [48] persisted all the time after the resumption of circulation in the brain following focal ischemia and caused a systematic increase in infarct volume [24][58]. These observations confirm the important role of blood cells in neuropathology during acute and chronic periods of recirculation and their negative impact on the neurological outcome after ischemia with reperfusion.

This entry is adapted from the peer-reviewed paper 10.3390/ijms241310739


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