Pericytes regulate key neurovascular functions of the brain. Studies in pericyte-deficient transgenic mice with aberrant signaling between endothelial-derived platelet-derived growth factor BB (PDGF-BB) and platelet-derived growth factor receptor β (PDGFRβ) in pericytes have contributed to better understanding of the role of pericytes in the brain. Here, we studied PdgfrβF7/F7 mice, which carry seven point mutations that disrupt PDGFRβ signaling causing loss of pericytes and vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) in the developing brain. We asked whether these mice have a stable or progressive vascular phenotype after birth, and whether both pericyte and VSMCs populations are affected in the adult brain. We found an early and progressive region-dependent loss of brain pericytes, microvascular reductions and blood-brain barrier (BBB) breakdown, which were more pronounced in the cortex, hippocampus and striatum than in the thalamus, whereas VSMCs population remained unaffected at the time when pericyte loss was already established. For example, compared to age-matched controls, PdgfrβF7/F7 mice between 4-6 and 36-48 weeks of age developed a region-dependent loss in pericyte coverage (22-46, 24-44 and 4-31%) and cell numbers (36-49, 34-64 and 11-36%), reduction in capillary length (20-39, 13-46 and 1-30%), and an increase in extravascular fibrinogen-derived deposits (3.4-5.2, 2.8-4.1 and 0-3.6-fold) demonstrating BBB breakdown in the cortex, hippocampus and thalamus, respectively. Capillary reductions and BBB breakdown correlated with loss of pericyte coverage. Our data suggest that PdgfrβF7/F7 mice develop an aggressive and rapid vascular phenotype without appreciable early involvement of VSMCs, therefore providing a valuable model to study regional effects of pericyte loss on brain vascular and neuronal functions. This model could be a useful tool for future studies directed at understanding the role of pericytes in the pathogenesis of neurological disorders associated with pericyte loss such as vascular dementia, Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, stroke and human immunodeficiency virus-associated neurocognitive disorder.
- Blood-Brain Barrier/metabolism
- Mice, Transgenic
- Muscle, Smooth, Vascular/cytology
- Myocytes, Smooth Muscle/cytology
- Receptor, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor beta/genetics
- Signal Transduction/physiology