Modelling physiological and pathological conditions to study pericyte biology in brain function and dysfunction

Research paper by Justin Rustenhoven, Leon C. Smyth, Deidre Jansson, Patrick Schweder, Miranda Aalderink, Emma L. Scotter, Edward W. Mee, Richard L. M. Faull, Thomas I.-H. Park, Mike Dragunow

Indexed on: 28 Feb '18Published on: 22 Feb '18Published in: BMC Neuroscience


Brain pericytes ensheathe the endothelium and contribute to formation and maintenance of the blood–brain-barrier. Additionally, pericytes are involved in several aspects of the CNS immune response including scarring, adhesion molecule expression, chemokine secretion, and phagocytosis. In vitro cultures are routinely used to investigate these functions of brain pericytes, however, these are highly plastic cells and can display differing phenotypes and functional responses depending on their culture conditions. Here we sought to investigate how two commonly used culture media, high serum containing DMEM/F12 and low serum containing Pericyte Medium (ScienCell), altered the phenotype of human brain pericytes and neuroinflammatory responses.Pericytes were isolated from adult human brain biopsy tissue and cultured in DMEM/F12 (D-pericytes) or Pericyte Medium (P-pericytes). Immunocytochemistry, qRT-PCR, and EdU incorporation were used to determine how this altered their basal phenotype, including the expression of pericyte markers, proliferation, and cell morphology. To determine whether culture media altered the inflammatory response in human brain pericytes, immunocytochemistry, qRT-PCR, cytometric bead arrays, and flow cytometry were used to investigate transcription factor induction, chemokine secretion, adhesion molecule expression, migration, phagocytosis, and response to inflammatory-related growth factors.P-pericytes displayed elevated proliferation and a distinct bipolar morphology compared to D-pericytes. Additionally, P-pericytes displayed lower expression of pericyte-associated markers NG2, PDGFRβ, and fibronectin, with notably lower αSMA, CD146, P4H and desmin, and higher Col-IV expression. Nuclear NF-kB translocation in response to IL-1β stimulation was observed in both cultures, however, P-pericytes displayed elevated expression of the transcription factor C/EBPδ, and lower expression of the adhesion molecule ICAM-1. P-pericytes displayed elevated phagocytic and migratory ability. Both cultures responded similarly to stimulation by the growth factors TGFβ1 and PDGF-BB.Despite differences in their phenotype and magnitude of response, both P-pericytes and D-pericytes responded similarly to all examined functions, indicating that the neuroinflammatory phenotype of these cells is robust to culture conditions.

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