Journal of cell science

Development and characterisation of a rat brain capillary endothelial culture: towards an in vitro blood-brain barrier.

PMID 1429907


Primary culture of rat brain endothelial cells is described, based on the method of C. C. W. Hughes and P. L. Lantos. The cells have been characterised using morphological and immunocytochemical techniques, and systematic studies undertaken to determine the optimal culture medium and conditions required to grow the cells at high purity on a variety of substrata. The endothelial cells have a spindle-shaped morphology, and proliferate as plaques from small clusters of cells associated with capillary fragments in the starting material. Tight junction-like cell:cell appositions are seen at the electron-microscopic level. The cells show characteristic staining for antigens recognized by antibodies against von Willebrand factor (Factor VIII-related antigen), angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), the transferrin receptor (Ox-26), actin and vimentin. They also show binding of the lectin from Ulex europaeus (UEA I). Potential contaminating cells include smooth muscle, fibroblasts, pericytes and meningeal cells. Contaminants can be kept to < ca. 5% by careful removal of large vessels and meninges during dissection, by brief treatment with Ca(2+)- and Mg(2+)-free saline, by growth in medium supplemented with plasma-derived serum treated for removal of platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), and by occasional use of medium in which D-valine is substituted for L-valine. Cells attach well to collagen-coated plastic, less well to glass. Cells can be grown on transparent collagen filters (ICN, Cellagen and Costar, Transwell-Col), and on microcarrier beads (Pharmacia, Cytodex-3). The culture has proved to be a useful preparation for studies of cellular physiology, pharmacology and biochemistry of the brain endothelium, and represents a first step in producing an in vitro model of the rat blood-brain barrier.

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