The pathway of subarachnoid CSF moving into the spinal parenchyma and the role of astrocytic aquaporin-4 in this process

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It has been proved that cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the subarachnoid space could reenter the brain parenchyma via the perivascular space. The present study was designed to explore the pathway of subarachnoid CSF flux into the spinal cord and the potential role of aquaporin-4 (AQP4) in this process.

Main methods:

Fluorescently tagged cadaverine, for the first time, was used to study CSF movement in mice. Following intracisternal infusion of CSF tracers, the cervical spinal cord was sliced and prepared for fluorescence imaging. Some sections were subject with immunostaining in order to observe tracer distribution and AQP4 expression.

Key findings:

Fluorescently tagged cadaverine rapidly entered the spinal cord. Tracer influx into the spinal parenchyma was time dependent. At 10 min post-infusion, cadaverine was largely distributed in the superficial tissue adjacent to the pial surface. At 70 min post-infusion, cadaverine was distributed in the whole cord and especially concentrated in the gray matter. Furthermore, fluorescent tracer could enter the spinal parenchyma either along the perivascular space or across the pial surface. AQP4 was observed highly expressed in the astrocytic endfeet surrounding blood vessels and the pial surface. Blocking AQP4 by its specific inhibitor TGN-020 strikingly reduced the inflow of CSF tracers into the spinal cord.


Subarachnoid CSF could flow into the spinal cord along the perivascular space or across the pial surface, in which AQP4 is involved. Our observation provides a basis for the study on CSF movement in the spinal cord when some neurological diseases occur.

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