Degeneration of noradrenergic fibres from the locus coeruleus causes tight-junction disorganisation in the rat brain

Sergey Kalinin, Douglas L. Feinstein, Hao Liang Xu, Gema Huesa, Dale A. Pelligrino, Elena Galea

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45 Citations (Scopus)


Although functional studies demonstrate that noradrenaline controls the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, it has never been determined whether this neurotransmitter regulates the tight junction (TJ) assembly that confers the barrier property to brain microvessels. We thus tested in rats the effect of pharmacological depletion of noradrenaline with the noradrenergic toxin DSP4 (5 mg/kg) on the expression of the TJ proteins zonula occludens-1 (ZO1) and occludin. The effectiveness of the lesion was confirmed by tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity, which showed noradrenergic fibre reduction accompanied by debris and swollen fibres in DSP4-treated brains. Noradrenergic fibre degeneration caused: (i) gliosis; (ii) disappearance of TJ proteins in vascular cell-to-cell contacts (49.9 and 38.3% reductions for occludin and ZO1, respectively); (iii) a 49.2% decrease in total ZO1 protein, measured by Western blot analysis, parallel to a 39.5% decrease in ZO1 mRNA, measured by real-time PCR; and (iv) a relative increase in the beta occludin isoform (62.9%), with no change in total occludin protein or mRNA. The expression of endothelial brain antigen, a marker of a functionally competent brain endothelium, was also reduced. We conclude that damage to the ascending fibres from the locus coeruleus caused TJ disruption and gliosis, a sign of inflammation. These results imply that the locus coeruleus degeneration reported in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases may contribute to these disorders by causing blood-brain barrier dysfunction. Whether the vascular damage is the result of impaired noradrenergic transmission or secondary to the inflammatory reaction remains to be determined. © The Authors (2006).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3393-3400
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2006


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Blood-brain barrier
  • Noradrenaline
  • Occludin
  • Zonula occludens


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