PECAM-1 stabilizes blood-brain barrier integrity and favors paracellular T-cell diapedesis across the blood-brain barrier during neuroinflammation

Isabella Wimmer, Silvia Tietz, Hideaki Nishihara, Urban Deutsch, Federica Sallusto, Fabien Gosselet, Ruth Lyck, William A. Muller, Hans Lassmann, Britta Engelhardt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Breakdown of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and increased immune cell trafficking into the central nervous system (CNS) are hallmarks of the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis (MS). Platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule-1 (PECAM-1; CD31) is expressed on cells of the vascular compartment and regulates vascular integrity and immune cell trafficking. Involvement of PECAM-1 in MS pathogenesis has been suggested by the detection of increased levels of soluble PECAM-1 (sPECAM-1) in the serum and CSF of MS patients. Here, we report profound upregulation of cell-bound PECAM-1 in initial (pre-phagocytic) white matter as well as active cortical gray matter MS lesions. Using a human in vitro BBB model we observed that PECAM-1 is not essential for the transmigration of human CD4+ T-cell subsets (Th1, Th1*, Th2, and Th17) across the BBB. Employing an additional in vitro BBB model based on primary mouse brain microvascular endothelial cells (pMBMECs) we show that the lack of endothelial PECAM-1 impairs BBB properties as shown by reduced transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER) and increases permeability for small molecular tracers. Investigating T-cell migration across the BBB under physiological flow by in vitro live cell imaging revealed that absence of PECAM-1 in pMBMECs did not influence arrest, polarization, and crawling of effector/memory CD4+ T cells on the pMBMECs. Absence of endothelial PECAM-1 also did not affect the number of T cells able to cross the pMBMEC monolayer under flow, but surprisingly favored transcellular over paracellular T-cell diapedesis. Taken together, our data demonstrate that PECAM-1 is critically involved in regulating BBB permeability and although not required for T-cell diapedesis itself, its presence or absence influences the cellular route of T-cell diapedesis across the BBB. Upregulated expression of cell-bound PECAM-1 in human MS lesions may thus reflect vascular repair mechanisms aiming to restore BBB integrity and paracellular T-cell migration across the BBB as it occurs during CNS immune surveillance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number711
JournalFrontiers in immunology
Issue numberAPR
StatePublished - 2019


  • Blood-brain barrier
  • Endothelial junctions
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • PECAM-1
  • T-cell diapedesis
  • Vascular permeability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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