Dual role of ALCAM in neuroinflammation and blood–brain barrier homeostasis
Significance Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory disorder characterized by multifocal lesions in the central nervous system. These lesions are caused by infiltrating leukocytes that take advantage and/or actively participate in the disruption of the blood–brain barrier (BBB). In this study, the specific role of the adhesion molecule ALCAM (activated leukocyte cell adhesion molecule) present on BBB endothelial cells was assessed. We demonstrated that ALCAM knockout mice develop a more severe experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, the mouse model of MS, due to an increased permeability of the BBB. This phenotypic change is caused by a dysregulation of junctional molecules with which ALCAM indirectly binds, suggesting that in addition to its role in leukocyte transmigration, ALCAM regulates and maintains tight junction stability by acting as an adaptor molecule. Activated leukocyte cell adhesion molecule (ALCAM) is a cell adhesion molecule found on blood–brain barrier endothelial cells (BBB-ECs) that was previously shown to be involved in leukocyte transmigration across the endothelium. In the present study, we found that ALCAM knockout (KO) mice developed a more severe myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) 3 5–55 –induced experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). The exacerbated disease was associated with a significant increase in the number of CNS-infiltrating proinflammatory leukocytes compared with WT controls. Passive EAE transfer experiments suggested that the pathophysiology observed in active EAE was linked to the absence of ALCAM on BBB-ECs. In addition, phenotypic characterization of unimmunized ALCAM KO mice revealed a reduced expression of BBB junctional proteins. Further in vivo, in vitro, and molecular analysis confirmed that ALCAM is associated with tight junction molecule assembly at the BBB, explaining the increased permeability of CNS blood vessels in ALCAM KO animals. Collectively, our data point to a biologically important function of ALCAM in maintaining BBB integrity.
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