Natural secretory products of human neural and microvessel endothelial cells: Implications in pathogenic "spreading" and Alzheimer's disease

Yuhai Zhao, Jian Guo Cui, Walter J. Lukiw

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Neurons, glia, and endothelial cells of the cerebral microvasculature co-exist in intimate proximity in nervous tissues, and their homeostatic interactions in health, as well as coordinated response to injury, have led to the concept that they form the basic elements of a functional neurovascular unit. During the course of normal cellular metabolism, growth, and development, each of these brain cell types secrete various species of potentially neurotoxic peptides and factors, events that increase in magnitude as brain cells age. This article reviews contemporary research on the secretory products of the three primary cell types that constitute the neurovascular unit in deep brain regions. We provide some novel in vitro data that illustrate potentially pathogenic paracrine effects within primary cells of the neurovascular unit. For example, the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin (IL)-1β was found to stimulate amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide release from human neural cells, and human brain microvessel endothelial cells exposed to transient hypoxia were found to secrete IL-1β at concentrations known to induce Aβ42 peptide release from human neural cells. Hypoxia and excessive IL-1β and Aβ42 abundance are typical pathogenic stress factors implicated in the initiation and development of common, chronic neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. These data support the hypothesis that paracrine effects of stressed constituent cells of the neurovascular unit may contribute to "spreading effects" characteristic of progressive neurodegenerative disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-192
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2006


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Amyloid-β 42
  • Human neural cells
  • IL-1β, microvessel endothelial cells
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Neurovascular unit
  • Paracrine effects
  • Primary culture
  • Spreading effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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