Aging alters the ability of the brain to respond to injury. One of the major differences between the adult and aged brain is that comparable injuries lead to greater blood brain barrier disruption in the aged brain. The goals of these studies were to quantify the effects of age on BBB permeability using high field strength MRI T1 mapping and to determine whether activation of matrix metalloproteases, their inhibitors, or expression of blood brain barrier structural proteins, occludin, zonnula occludins-1 (ZO-1) and claudin-5 were altered following injury to the aged C57/BL6 mouse brain. T1 mapping studies revealed greater blood brain barrier permeability in the aged (21–24 months old) brain than in the adult (4–6 months old) following controlled cortical impact. The increased blood brain barrier permeability in the pericontusional region was confirmed with IgG immunohistochemistry. MMP-9 activity was increased following controlled cortical impact in the aged brain, and this was accompanied by increased MMP-9 gene expression. MMP-2 activity was higher in the uninjured aged brain than in the adult brain. Occludin and ZO-1 mRNA levels were unchanged following injury in either age group, but claudin-5 mRNA levels were lower in the aged than the adult brain following injury. These results demonstrate quantitative increases in blood brain barrier permeability in the aged brain following injury that are accompanied by increased MMP-9 activation and decreased blood brain barrier repair responses.Highlights
▸ Blood brain barrier disruption after traumic brain injury is greater in aged than adult mice. ▸ Activation of MMP-9 after traumatic brain injury is greater in aged than adult mice. ▸ Expression of the blood brain barrier structural protein claudin-5 is impaired after traumatic brain injury in aged mice. ▸ Increased blood brain barrier disruption and decreased repair may contribute to poor outcomes after injury to the aged brain.