• brain;
  • capillaries;
  • ischaemia;
  • micro-vessels;
  • pericyte;
  • reactive oxygen species;
  • white matter


Capillary endothelia and pericytes form a close morphological arrangement allowing pericytes to regulate capillary blood flow, in addition to contributing to vascular development and support. Vascular changes associated with oxidative stress are implicated in important pathologies in developing whiter matter, but little is known about the vascular unit in white matter of the appropriate age or how it responds to oxidative stress. We show that the ultrastructural arrangement of post-natal day 10 (P10) capillaries involves the apposition of pericyte somata to the capillary inner basement membrane and penetration of pericyte processes onto the abluminal surface where they form close connections with endothelial cells. Some pericytes have an unusual stellate morphology, extending processes radially from the vessel. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) were monitored with the ROS-sensitive dye 2’,7’-dichlorofluorescin (DCF) in the endothelial cells. Exposure to exogenous ROS (100 μm H2O2 or xanthine/xanthine oxidase), evoked an elevation in intracellular ROS that declined to baseline during the ongoing challenge. A second challenge failed to evoke an intracellular ROS rise unless the nerve was rested for > 4 h or exposed to very high levels of exogenous ROS. Exposure to a first ROS challenge prior to loading with DCF also prevented the intracellular ROS rise from a second challenge, proving that dye washout during exposure to ROS is not responsible for the loss of a second response. Perfusion with 30 μm extracellular Ca2+ or the voltage-gated Ca2+ antagonist diltiazem partially prevented this rapid scavenging of intracellular ROS, but blocking either catalase or glutathione peroxidase did not. The phenomenon was present over a range of post-natal ages and may contribute to the high ROS-tolerance of endothelial cells and act to limit the release of harmful ROS onto neighbouring pericytes.