Hyperhomocysteinemia increases permeability of the blood-brain barrier by NMDA receptor-dependent regulation of adherens and tight junctions

Richard S Beard, Jason J Reynolds, Shawn E Bearden
Blood 2011 August 18, 118 (7): 2007-14
Hyperhomocysteinemia (HHcy) increases permeability of the blood-brain barrier, but the mechanisms are undetermined. Homocysteine (Hcy) is an agonist of the neuronal N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAr). We tested the hypothesis that HHcy disrupts the blood-brain barrier by an NMDAr-dependent mechanism in endothelium. In brain microvascular endothelial cells, there was no change in expression of the adherens junction protein VE-cadherin with Hcy treatment, but there was a significant decrease in the amount of β-catenin at the membrane. Moreover, Hcy caused nuclear translocation of β-catenin and attachment to the promoter for the tight junction protein claudin-5, with concomitant reduction in claudin-5 expression. Using a murine model of HHcy (cbs(+/-)), treatment for 2 weeks with an NMDAr antagonist (memantine) rescued cerebrovascular expression of claudin-5 and blood-brain barrier permeability to both exogenous sodium fluorescein and endogenous IgG. Memantine had no effect on these parameters in wild-type littermates. The same results were obtained using an in vitro model with brain microvascular endothelial cells. These data provide the first evidence that the NMDAr is required for Hcy-mediated increases in blood-brain barrier permeability. Modulating cerebral microvascular NMDAr activity may present a novel therapeutic target in diseases associated with opening of the blood-brain barrier in HHcy, such as stroke and dementia.

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