Expert Reviews in Molecular Medicine

Review Article

Cerebral microvascular endothelium and the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases

Paula Grammasa1a2 c1, Joseph Martineza1 and Bradley Millera1a2a3

a1 Garrison Institute on Aging, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, TX, USA.

a2 Department of Neurology, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, TX, USA.

a3 Department of Pathology, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, TX, USA.

Abstract

Diseases of the central nervous system (CNS) pose a significant health challenge, but despite their diversity, they share many common features and mechanisms. For example, endothelial dysfunction has been implicated as a crucial event in the development of several CNS disorders, such as Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1-associated neurocognitive disorder and traumatic brain injury. Breakdown of the blood–brain barrier (BBB) as a result of disruption of tight junctions and transporters, leads to increased leukocyte transmigration and is an early event in the pathology of these disorders. The brain endothelium is highly reactive because it serves as both a source of, and a target for, inflammatory proteins and reactive oxygen species. BBB breakdown thus leads to neuroinflammation and oxidative stress, which are implicated in the pathogenesis of CNS disease. Furthermore, the physiology and pathophysiology of endothelial cells are closely linked to the functioning of their mitochondria, and mitochondrial dysfunction is another important mediator of disease pathology in the brain. The high concentration of mitochondria in cerebrovascular endothelial cells might account for the sensitivity of the BBB to oxidant stressors. Here, we discuss how greater understanding of the role of BBB function could lead to new therapeutic approaches for diseases of the CNS that target the dynamic properties of brain endothelial cells.

(Online publication June 10 2011)

Correspondence

c1 Corresponding author: Paula Grammas, Garrison Institute on Aging, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, 3601 4th Street Stop 9424, Lubbock, TX 79430, USA. E-mail: paula.grammas@ttuhsc.edu