The objective of this study was to establish pure blood-nerve barrier (BNB)-derived peripheral nerve pericyte cell lines and to investigate their unique properties as barrier-forming cells. We isolated peripheral nerve, brain, and lung pericytes from transgenic rats harboring the temperature-sensitive simian virus 40 large T-antigen gene. These cell lines expressed several pericyte markers such as α-smooth muscle actin, NG2, osteopontin, and desmin, whereas they did not express endothelial cell markers such as vWF and PECAM. In addition, these cell lines expressed several tight junction molecules such as occludin, claudin-12, ZO-1, and ZO-2. In particular, the expression of occludin was detected in peripheral nerve and brain pericytes, although it was not detected in lung pericytes by a Western blot analysis. An immunocytochemical analysis confirmed that occludin and ZO-1 were localized at the cell-cell boundaries among the pericytes. Brain and peripheral nerve pericytes also showed significantly higher trans-pericyte electrical resistance values and lower inulin clearances than lung pericytes. We considered that occludin localized at the cell-cell boundaries among the pericytes might mechanically stabilize the microvessels of the BNB and the blood-brain barrier. Furthermore, we also showed that these cell lines expressed many barrier-related transporters. ABCG2, p-gp, MRP-1, and Glut-1 were detected by a Western blot analysis and were observed in the cytoplasm and outer membrane by an immunocytochemical analysis. These transporters on pericytes might facilitate the peripheral nerve-to-blood efflux and blood-to-peripheral nerve influx transport of substrates in cooperation with those on endothelial cells in order to maintain peripheral nerve homeostasis.
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