Introduction: Laminin, a major component of the basement membrane, plays an important role in blood brain barrier (BBB) regulation. At the neurovascular unit, astrocytes, brain endothelial cells, and pericytes synthesize and deposit different laminin isoforms into the basement membrane. Previous studies from our laboratory showed that loss of astrocytic laminin induces age-dependent and region-specific BBB breakdown and intracerebral hemorrhage, suggesting a critical role of astrocytic laminin in vascular integrity maintenance. Laminin α4 (predominantly generated by endothelial cells) has been shown to regulate vascular integrity at embryonic/neonatal stage. The role of pericytic laminin in vascular integrity, however, remains elusive.
Methods: We investigated the function of pericyte-derived laminin in vascular integrity using laminin conditional knockout mice. Specifically, laminin floxed mice were crossed with PDGFRβ-Cre line to generate mutants (PKO) with laminin deficiency in PDGFRβ+ cells, which include both pericytes and vascular smooth muscle cells (vSMCs). To distinguish the contribution of pericyte- and vSMC-derived laminin, we also generated a vSMC-specific condition knockout line (TKO) by crossing the laminin floxed mice with Transgelin-Cre mice. In this study, mice of both genders on a C57Bl6 background were used. At least 5-6 animals were used in biochemical and histological analyses in this study.
Results: Pericyte-derived laminin was abrogated in all PKO mice. However, only old but not young PKO mice showed signs of BBB breakdown and reduced vessel density, suggesting age-dependent changes. Consistent with these data, further mechanistic studies revealed reduced tight junction proteins, diminished AQP4 expression, and deceased pericyte coverage in old but not young PKO mice. In addition, neither BBB disruption nor decreased vessel density was observed in TKO mice, suggesting that these vascular defects are due to loss of pericyte- rather than vSMC-derived laminin.
Conclusions: These results strongly suggest that pericyte-derived laminin active regulates BBB integrity and vessel density in an age-dependent manner. I would like this abstract to be considered for the Stroke Basic Science Award.