Cells of the Blood–Brain Barrier: An Overview of the Neurovascular Unit in Health and Disease

Heather L. McConnell, Anusha Mishra

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

7 Scopus citations


The brain is endowed with highly specialized vasculature that is both structurally and functionally unique compared to vasculature supplying peripheral organs. The blood–brain barrier (BBB) is formed by endothelial cells of the cerebral vasculature and prevents extravasation of blood products into the brain to protect neural tissue and maintain a homeostatic environment. The BBB functions as part of the neurovascular unit (NVU), which is composed of neurons, astrocytes, and microglia in addition to the specialized endothelial cells, mural cells, and the basement membrane. Through coordinated intercellular signaling, these cells function as a dynamic unit to tightly regulate brain blood flow, vascular function, neuroimmune responses, and waste clearance. In this chapter, we review the functions of individual NVU components, describe neurovascular coupling as a classic example of NVU function, and discuss archetypal NVU pathophysiology during disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMethods in Molecular Biology
PublisherHumana Press Inc.
Number of pages22
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NameMethods in Molecular Biology
ISSN (Print)1064-3745
ISSN (Electronic)1940-6029


  • Astrogliosis
  • Blood–brain barrier
  • Cerebral blood flow
  • Neurovascular coupling
  • Neurovascular unit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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