This study examines the regulating effect of Sonic Hedgehog (Shh) on the permeability of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in cerebral ischemia. By employing permanent middle cerebral artery occlusion (pMCAO) model, we find that Shh significantly decreases brain edema and preserves BBB permeability. Moreover, Shh increases zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1), occludin and angiopiotetin-1 (Ang-1) expression in the ischemic penumbra. Blockage of Shh with cyclopamine abolishes the effects of Shh on brain edema, BBB permeability and ZO-1, occludin, Ang-1 expression. Primary brain microvessel endothelial cells (BMECs) and astrocytes were pre-treated with Shh, cyclopamine, Ang-1-neutralizing antibody, and subjected to oxygen-glucose deprivation (OGD). Results show that the Ang-1 protein level in the culture medium of Shh-treated astrocytes is significantly higher. Shh also increased ZO-1, occludin and Ang-1 expression in BMECs, while cyclopamine and Ang-1-neutralizing antibody inhibited the effects of Shh on the ZO-1 and occludin expression, respectively. This study suggests that, under ischemic insults, Shh triggers Ang-1 production predominantly in astrocytes, and the secreted Ang-1 acts on BMECs, thereby upregulating ZO-1 and occludin to repair the tight junction and ameliorate the brain edema and BBB leakage.
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