Setting-up an in vitro model of rat blood-brain barrier (BBB): a focus on BBB impermeability and receptor-mediated transport


  • Molino Yves
  • Jabès Françoise
  • Lacassagne Emmanuelle
  • Gaudin Nicolas
  • Khrestchatisky Michel


  • Animals
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Wistar
  • Blood-Brain Barrier
  • ATP-Binding Cassette
  • Sub-Family B
  • Member 1
  • Female
  • Endothelial Cells
  • Astrocytes
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Biological Transport
  • Active
  • Carbocyanines
  • Cell Membrane Permeability
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Models
  • Animal
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Rhodamine 123
  • Medicine
  • Issue 88
  • Rat brain endothelial cells RBEC
  • Mouse
  • Spinal cord
  • Tight junction TJ
  • Receptor-mediated transport RMT
  • Low density lipoprotein LDL
  • LDLR
  • Transferrin
  • TfR
  • P-glycoprotein P-gp
  • Transendothelial electrical resistance TEER


The blood brain barrier (BBB) specifically regulates molecular and cellular flux between the blood and the nervous tissue. Our aim was to develop and characterize a highly reproducible rat syngeneic in vitro model of the BBB using co-cultures of primary rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC) and astrocytes to study receptors involved in transcytosis across the endothelial cell monolayer. Astrocytes were isolated by mechanical dissection following trypsin digestion and were frozen for later co-culture. RBEC were isolated from 5-week-old rat cortices. The brains were cleaned of meninges and white matter, and mechanically dissociated following enzymatic digestion. Thereafter, the tissue homogenate was centrifuged in bovine serum albumin to separate vessel fragments from nervous tissue. The vessel fragments underwent a second enzymatic digestion to free endothelial cells from their extracellular matrix. The remaining contaminating cells such as pericytes were further eliminated by plating the microvessel fragments in puromycin-containing medium. They were then passaged onto filters for co-culture with astrocytes grown on the bottom of the wells. RBEC expressed high levels of tight junction (TJ) proteins such as occludin, claudin-5 and ZO-1 with a typical localization at the cell borders. The transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER) of brain endothelial monolayers, indicating the tightness of TJs reached 300 ohm x cm(2) on average. The endothelial permeability coefficients (Pe) for lucifer yellow (LY) was highly reproducible with an average of 0.26 ± 0.11 x 10(-3) cm/min. Brain endothelial cells organized in monolayers expressed the efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (P-gp), showed a polarized transport of rhodamine 123, a ligand for P-gp, and showed specific transport of transferrin-Cy3 and DiILDL across the endothelial cell monolayer. In conclusion, we provide a protocol for setting up an in vitro BBB model that is highly reproducible due to the quality assurance methods, and that is suitable for research on BBB transporters and receptors.

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