Li, Y. Q., Chen, P., Jain, V., Reilly, R. M. and Wong, C. S. Early Radiation-Induced Endothelial Cell Loss and Blood–Spinal Cord Barrier Breakdown in the Rat Spinal Cord. Radiat. Res. 161, 143–152 (2004).
Using a rat spinal cord model, this study was designed to characterize radiation-induced vascular endothelial cell loss and its relationship to early blood–brain barrier disruption in the central nervous system. Adult rats were given a single dose of 0, 2, 8, 19.5, 22, 30 or 50 Gy to the cervical spinal cord. At various times up to 2 weeks after irradiation, the spinal cord was processed for histological and immunohistochemical analysis. Radiation-induced apoptosis was assessed by morphology and TdT-mediated dUTP nick end labeling combined with immunohistochemical markers for endothelial and glial cells. Image analysis was performed to determine endothelial cell and microvessel density using immunohistochemistry with endothelial markers, namely endothelial barrier antigen, glucose transporter isoform 1, laminin and zonula occludens 1. Blood–spinal cord barrier permeability was assessed using immunohistochemistry for albumin and 99mTc-diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid as a vascular tracer. Endothelial cell proliferation was assessed using in vivo BrdU labeling. During the first 24 h after irradiation, apoptotic endothelial cells were observed in the rat spinal cord. The decrease in endothelial cell density at 24 h after irradiation was associated with an increase in albumin immunostaining around microvessels. The decrease in the number of endothelial cells persisted for 7 days and recovery of endothelial density was apparent by day 14. A similar pattern of blood–spinal cord barrier disruption and recovery of permeability was observed over the 2 weeks, and an increase in BrdU-labeled endothelial cells was seen at day 3. These results are consistent with an association between endothelial cell death and acute blood–spinal cord barrier disruption in the rat spinal cord after irradiation.