The blood-brain barrier is a dynamic endothelial cell barrier in the brain microvasculature that separates the blood from the brain parenchyma. Specialized brain endothelial cells, astrocytes, neurons, microglia and pericytes together compose the neurovascular unit and interact to maintain blood-brain barrier function. A disturbed brain barrier function is reported in most common neurological disorders and may play a role in disease pathogenesis. However, a comprehensive overview of how the neurovascular unit is affected in a wide range of rare disorders is lacking. Our aim was to provide further insights into the neuropathology of the neurovascular unit in leukodystrophies to unravel its potential pathogenic role in these diseases. Leukodystrophies are monogenic disorders of the white matter due to defects in any of its structural components. Single leukodystrophies are exceedingly rare, and availability of human tissue is unique. Expression of selective neurovascular unit markers such as claudin-5, zona occludens 1, laminin, PDGFRβ, aquaporin-4 and α-dystroglycan was investigated in eight different leukodystrophies using immunohistochemistry. We observed tight junction rearrangements, indicative of endothelial dysfunction, in five out of eight assessed leukodystrophies of different origin and an altered aquaporin-4 distribution in all. Aquaporin-4 redistribution indicates a general astrocytic dysfunction in leukodystrophies, even in those not directly related to astrocytic pathology or without prominent reactive astrogliosis. These findings provide further evidence for dysfunction in the orchestration of the neurovascular unit in leukodystrophies and contribute to a better understanding of the underlying disease mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103
Pages (from-to)103
JournalActa neuropathologica communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

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