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Keywords:

  • ependymocytes;
  • tight junction protein;
  • area postrema;
  • subfornical organ;
  • subcommissural organ;
  • organum vasculosum laminae terminalis

ABSTRACT

Tanycytes are highly specialized ependymal cells that form a blood–cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) barrier at the level of the median eminence (ME), a circumventricular organ (CVO) located in the tuberal region of the hypothalamus. This ependymal layer harbors well-organized tight junctions, a hallmark of central nervous system barriers that is lacking in the fenestrated portal vessels of the ME. The displacement of barrier properties from the vascular to the ventricular side allows the diffusion of blood-borne molecules into the parenchyma of the ME while tanycyte tight junctions control their diffusion into the CSF, thus maintaining brain homeostasis. In the present work, we combined immunohistochemical and permeability studies to investigate the presence of tanycyte barriers along the ventricular walls of other brain CVOs. Our data indicate that, unlike cuboidal ependymal cells, ependymal cells bordering the CVOs possess long processes that project into the parenchyma of the CVOs to reach the fenestrated capillary network. Remarkably, these tanycyte-like cells display well-organized tight junctions around their cell bodies. Consistent with these observations, permeability studies show that this ependymal layer acts as a diffusion barrier. Together, our results suggest that tanycytes are a characteristic feature of all CVOs and yield potential new insights into their involvement in regulating the exchange between the blood, the brain, and the CSF within these “brain windows.” J. Comp. Neurol. 521:3389-3405, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.