Improved Method for the Establishment of an In Vitro Blood-Brain Barrier Model Based on Porcine Brain Endothelial Cells

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The aim of this protocol presents an optimized procedure for the purification and cultivation of pBECs and to establish in vitro blood-brain barrier (BBB) models based on pBECs in mono-culture (MC), MC with astrocyte-conditioned medium (ACM), and non-contact co-culture (NCC) with astrocytes of porcine or rat origin. pBECs were isolated and cultured from fragments of capillaries from the brain cortices of domestic pigs 5-6 months old. These fragments were purified by careful removal of meninges, isolation and homogenization of grey matter, filtration, enzymatic digestion, and centrifugation. To further eliminate contaminating cells, the capillary fragments were cultured with puromycin-containing medium. When 60-95% confluent, pBECs growing from the capillary fragments were passaged to permeable membrane filter inserts and established in the models. To increase barrier tightness and BBB characteristic phenotype of pBECs, the cells were treated with the following differentiation factors: membrane permeant 8-CPT-cAMP (here abbreviated cAMP), hydrocortisone, and a phosphodiesterase inhibitor, RO-20-1724 (RO). The procedure was carried out over a period of 9-11 days, and when establishing the NCC model, the astrocytes were cultured 2-8 weeks in advance. Adherence to the described procedures in the protocol has allowed the establishment of endothelial layers with highly restricted paracellular permeability, with the NCC model showing an average transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER) of 1249 ± 80 Ω cm2, and paracellular permeability (Papp) for Lucifer Yellow of 0.90 10-6 ± 0.13 10-6 cm sec-1 (mean ± SEM, n=55). Further evaluation of this pBEC phenotype showed good expression of the tight junctional proteins claudin 5, ZO-1, occludin and adherens junction protein p120 catenin. The model presented can be used for a range of studies of the BBB in health and disease and, with the highly restrictive paracellular permeability, this model is suitable for studies of transport and intracellular trafficking.