Endothelial cells that make up brain capillaries and constitute the blood-brain barrier become different from peripheral endothelial cells in response to inductive factors found in the nervous system. We have established a cell culture model of the blood-brain barrier by treating brain endothelial cells with a combination of astrocyte-conditioned medium and agents that elevate intracellular cAMP. These cells form high resistance tight junctions and exhibit low rates of paracellular leakage and fluid-phase endocytosis. They also undergo a dramatic structural reorganization as they form tight junctions. Results from these studies suggest modes of manipulating the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, potentially providing the basis for increasing the penetration of drugs into the central nervous system.

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