The blood circulation interface and the neural tissue feature unique characteristics encompassed by the term blood -brain barrier (BBB). The barrier’s primary functions are maintenance of brain homeostasis, selective transport, and protection, all of them determined by its specialized multicellular structure. The BBB primarily exists at the level of the brain microvascular endothelium; however, endothelial cells are not intrinsically capable of forming a barrier. Indeed, the development of barrier characteristics in cerebral endothelial cells requires coordinated cell–cell interactions and signaling from glial cells (i.e., astrocytes, microglia), pericytes, neurons, and extracellular matrix. Such an intricate relationship implies the existence of a neurovascular unit (NVU). The NVU concept emphasizes that the dynamic BBB response to stressors requires coordinated interactions between various central nervous system (CNS) cell types and structures. Every cell type makes an indispensable contribution to the BBBs integrity, and any cell’s failure or dysfunction might result in the barrier breakdown, with dramatic consequences, such as neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration. This chapter will focus on the structure and function of the BBB and discuss how BBB breakdown causes detrimental brain function.
Part of the book: Connectivity and Functional Specialization in the Brain