Journal of neuroinflammation

Brain microvascular pericytes are immunoactive in culture: cytokine, chemokine, nitric oxide, and LRP-1 expression in response to lipopolysaccharide.

PMID 21995440


Brain microvascular pericytes are important constituents of the neurovascular unit. These cells are physically the closest cells to the microvascular endothelial cells in brain capillaries. They significantly contribute to the induction and maintenance of the barrier functions of the blood-brain barrier. However, very little is known about their immune activities or their roles in neuroinflammation. Here, we focused on the immunological profile of brain pericytes in culture in the quiescent and immune-challenged state by studying their production of immune mediators such as nitric oxide (NO), cytokines, and chemokines. We also examined the effects of immune challenge on pericyte expression of low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein-1 (LRP-1), a protein involved in the processing of amyloid precursor protein and the brain-to-blood efflux of amyloid-β peptide. Supernatants were collected from primary cultures of mouse brain pericytes. Release of nitric oxide (NO) was measured by the Griess reaction and the level of S-nitrosylation of pericyte proteins measured with a modified "biotin-switch" method. Specific mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway inhibitors were used to determine involvement of these pathways on NO production. Cytokines and chemokines were analyzed by multianalyte technology. The expression of both subunits of LRP-1 was analyzed by western blot. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induced release of NO by pericytes in a dose-dependent manner that was mediated through MAPK pathways. Nitrative stress resulted in S-nitrosylation of cellular proteins. Eighteen of twenty-three cytokines measured were released constitutively by pericytes or with stimulation by LPS, including interleukin (IL)-12, IL-13, IL-9, IL-10, granulocyte-colony stimulating factor, granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor, eotaxin, chemokine (C-C motif) ligand (CCL)-3, and CCL-4. Pericyte expressions of both subunits of LRP-1 were upregulated by LPS. Our results show that cultured mouse brain microvascular pericytes secrete cytokines, chemokines, and nitric oxide and respond to the innate immune system stimulator LPS. These immune properties of pericytes are likely important in their communication within the neurovascular unit and provide a mechanism by which they participate in neuroinflammatory processes in brain infections and neurodegenerative diseases.