The astrocyte, one of the glial cells, plays many functional roles. These include provision of nutrients from blood vessels to neurons, supply of neurotransmitters and support of blood–brain barrier (BBB) integrity. Astrocytes are known to support the integrity of BBB through maintenance of the tight junction between endothelial cells of blood vessels. However, evidence of its direct contribution to BBB is lacking owing to technical limitations. In this study, astrocytic endfeet covering blood vessels were removed by the laser ablation method with two photon laser scanning microscopy in in vivo mouse brain, and the re-covering of blood vessels with the astrocytic endfeet was observed in about half of the cases. Blood vessels kept their integrity without astrocytic endfoot covers: leakage of plasma marker dyes, Evans Blue or dextran-conjugated fluorescein, was not observed from stripped blood vessels, while ablation of vascular walls induced extravasation of Evans Blue. These results suggest that the astrocytic endfeet covering blood vessels do not contribute to the immediate BBB barrier.
ASJC Scopus subject areas