The blood-brain barrier (BBB), composed of brain microvascular endothelial cells (BMEC) that are tightly linked by tight junction (TJ) proteins, restricts the movement of molecules between the periphery and the central nervous system. Elevated systemic levels of neutrophils have been detected in patients with altered BBB function, but the role of neutrophils in BMEC dysfunction is unknown. Neutrophils are key players of the immune response and, when activated, produce neutrophil-derived microvesicles (NMV). NMV have been shown to impact the integrity of endothelial cells throughout the body and we hypothesize that NMV released from circulating neutrophils interact with BMEC and induce endothelial cell dysfunction. Therefore, the current study investigated the interaction of NMV with human BMEC and determined whether they altered gene expression and function in vitro. Using flow cytometry and confocal imaging, NMV were shown to be internalized by the human cerebral microvascular endothelial cell line hCMEC/D3 via a variety of energy-dependent mechanisms, including endocytosis and macropinocytosis. The internalization of NMV significantly altered the transcriptomic profile of hCMEC/D3, specifically inducing the dysregulation of genes associated with TJ, ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis and vesicular transport. Functional studies confirmed NMV significantly increased permeability and decreased the transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER) of a confluent monolayer of hCMEC/D3. These findings indicate that NMV interact with and affect gene expression of BMEC as well as impacting their integrity. We conclude that NMV may play an important role in modulating the permeability of BBB during an infection.
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