Central nervous system pericytes in health and disease


Pericytes are uniquely positioned within the neurovascular unit to serve as vital integrators, coordinators and effectors of many neurovascular functions, including angiogenesis, blood-brain barrier (BBB) formation and maintenance, vascular stability and angioarchitecture, regulation of capillary blood flow and clearance of toxic cellular byproducts necessary for proper CNS homeostasis and neuronal function. New studies have revealed that pericyte deficiency in the CNS leads to BBB breakdown and brain hypoperfusion resulting in secondary neurodegenerative changes. Here we review recent progress in understanding the biology of CNS pericytes and their role in health and disease.

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Figure 1: Structural and molecular pericyte connections within the neurovascular unit.
Figure 2: Origin of pericytes in the CNS.
Figure 3: Pericyte-endothelial signaling.
Figure 4: Pericytes are multi-functional members of the neurovascular unit.
Figure 5: Pericyte loss can trigger primary vascular dysfunction leading to neurodegeneration.


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The authors thank the US National Institutes of Health (grants R37 AG023084, R37 NS34467 and HL63290) and the Zilkha family for the research support.

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Correspondence to Berislav V Zlokovic.

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Winkler, E., Bell, R. & Zlokovic, B. Central nervous system pericytes in health and disease. Nat Neurosci 14, 1398–1405 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.2946

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