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Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2014, 15(4), 6453-6474; doi:10.3390/ijms15046453
Review

The Role of Pericytes in Neurovascular Unit Remodeling in Brain Disorders

* ,
 and
Neuroscience Laboratory, CHU de Québec Research Center and Department of Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Laval University, 2705 Laurier boul., Québec City, QC G1V 4G2, Canada
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 17 February 2014 / Revised: 1 April 2014 / Accepted: 8 April 2014 / Published: 16 April 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Signal Transduction of Tissue Repair)
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Abstract

Neurons are extremely vulnerable cells that tightly rely on the brain’s highly dynamic and complex vascular network that assures an accurate and adequate distribution of nutrients and oxygen. The neurovascular unit (NVU) couples neuronal activity to vascular function, controls brain homeostasis, and maintains an optimal brain microenvironment adequate for neuronal survival by adjusting blood-brain barrier (BBB) parameters based on brain needs. The NVU is a heterogeneous structure constituted by different cell types that includes pericytes. Pericytes are localized at the abluminal side of brain microvessels and contribute to NVU function. Pericytes play essential roles in the development and maturation of the neurovascular system during embryogenesis and stability during adulthood. Initially, pericytes were described as contractile cells involved in controlling neurovascular tone. However, recent reports have shown that pericytes dynamically respond to stress induced by injury upon brain diseases, by chemically and physically communicating with neighboring cells, by their immune properties and by their potential pluripotent nature within the neurovascular niche. As such, in this paper, we would like to review the role of pericytes in NVU remodeling, and their potential as targets for NVU repair strategies and consequently neuroprotection in two pathophysiologically distinct brain disorders: ischemic stroke and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Keywords: pericytes; neurovascular unit; tissue remodeling; tissue repair; signal transduction; Alzheimer’s disease; stroke pericytes; neurovascular unit; tissue remodeling; tissue repair; signal transduction; Alzheimer’s disease; stroke
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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ElAli, A.; Thériault, P.; Rivest, S. The Role of Pericytes in Neurovascular Unit Remodeling in Brain Disorders. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2014, 15, 6453-6474.

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