Structural, molecular, and functional alterations of the blood-brain barrier during epileptogenesis and epilepsy : a cause, consequence, or both?
The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a dynamic, highly selective barrier primarily formed by endothelial cells connected by tight junctions that separate the circulating blood from the brain extracellular fluid. The endothelial cells lining the brain microvessels are under the inductive influence of neighboring cell types, including astrocytes and pericytes. In addition to the anatomical characteristics of the BBB, various specific transport systems, enzymes and receptors regulate molecular and cellular traffic across the BBB. While the intact BBB prevents many macromolecules and immune cells from entering the brain, following epileptogenic brain insults the BBB changes its properties. Among BBB alterations, albumin extravasation and diapedesis of leucocytes from blood into brain parenchyma occur, inducing or contributing to epileptogenesis. Furthermore, seizures themselves may modulate BBB functions, permitting albumin extravasation, leading to activation of astrocytes and the innate immune system, and eventually modifications of neuronal networks. BBB alterations following seizures are not necessarily associated with enhanced drug penetration into the brain. Increased expression of multidrug efflux transporters such as P-glycoprotein likely act as a 'second line defense' mechanism to protect the brain from toxins. A better understanding of the complex alterations in BBB structure and function following seizures and in epilepsy may lead to novel therapeutic interventions allowing the prevention and treatment of epilepsy as well as other detrimental neuro-psychiatric sequelae of brain injury.