Sep 4, 2014

Brain capillary pericytes exert a substantial but slow influence on blood flow

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Gael P AlamancosAndy Y. Shih


The majority of the brain's vasculature is comprised of intricate capillary networks lined by capillary pericytes. However, it remains unclear whether capillary pericytes contribute to blood flow control. Using two-photon microscopy to observe and manipulate single capillary pericytes in vivo, we find their optogenetic stimulation decreases lumen diameter and blood flow, but with slower kinetics than mural cells of upstream pial and pre-capillary arterioles. This slow, optogenetically-induced vasoconstriction was inhibited by the clinically-used vasodilator fasudil, a Rho kinase inhibitor that blocks contractile machinery. Capillary pericytes were also slower to constrict back to baseline following hypercapnia-induced dilation, and relax towards baseline following optogenetically-induced vasoconstriction. In a complementary approach, optical ablation of single capillary pericytes led to sustained local dilation and a doubling of blood cell flux in capillaries lacking pericyte contact. Altogether these data indicate that capillary pericytes contribute to basal blood flow resistance and slow modulation of blood flow throughout the capillary bed.

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