Obesity and insulin resistance elicit blood-brain barrier (BBB) breakdown in humans and animal models, but the relative contributions of the two pathologies remain poorly understood.
These studies initially addressed the temporal progression of cerebrovascular dysfunction relative to dietary obesity or diet-induced insulin resistance in male mice. Obesity increased BBB permeability to the low molecular weight fluorophore sodium fluorescein (NaFl), while diet-induced insulin resistance increased permeability to both NaFl and Evans Blue, which forms a high molecular weight complex with serum albumin.
Serial section transmission electron microscopy analysis of hippocampal capillaries revealed that diabetes promotes involution of tight junctions, fenestration of endothelial cells, and pericyte regression. Chronic activation of adenosine receptor 2a (Adora2a) erodes tight junctions between endothelial cells of the cerebral vasculature in other models of chronic neuropathology, and we observed that acute Adora2a antagonism normalized BBB permeability in wildtype (Wt) mice with diet-induced insulin resistance. Experiments in mice with inducible deletion of Adora2a in endothelial cells revealed protection against BBB breakdown with diet-induced insulin resistance, despite comparable metabolic dysfunction relative to nontransgenic littermates. Protection against BBB breakdown was associated with decreased vascular inflammation, recovery of hippocampal synaptic plasticity, and restoration of hippocampus-dependent memory.
These findings indicate that Adora2a-mediated signaling in vascular endothelial cells disrupts the BBB in dietary obesity, and implicate cerebrovascular dysfunction as the underlying mechanism for deficits in synaptic plasticity and cognition with obesity and insulin resistance.
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