Protection of the blood-brain barrier by hypercapnia during acute hypertension

G. L. Baumbach, W. G. Mayhan, D. D. Heistad

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42 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to examine effects of hypercapnia on susceptibility of the blood-brain barrier to disruption during acute hypertension. Two methods were used to test the hypothesis that cerebral vasodilatation during hypercapnia increases disruption of the blood-brain barrier. First, permeability of the blood-brain barrier was measured in anesthetized cats with 125I-labeled serum albumin. Severe hypertension markedly increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier during normocapnia, but not during hypercapnia. The protective effect of hypercapnia was not dependent on sympathetic nerves. Second, in anesthetized rats, permeability of the barrier was quantitated by clearance of fluorescent dextran. Disruption of the blood-brain barrier during hypertension was decreased by hypercapnia. Because disruption of the blood-brain barrier occurred primarily in pial venules, we also measured pial venular diameter and pressure (with a servo-null method). Acute hypertension increased pial venular pressure and diameter in normocapnic rats. Hypercapnia alone increased pial venular pressure and pial venular diameter, and acute hypertension during hypercapnia further increased venular pressure. The magnitude of increase in pial venular pressure during acute hypertension was significantly less in hypercapnic than in normocapnic rats. We conclude that hypercapnia protects the blood-brain barrier. Possible mechanisms of this effect include attenuation of the incremental increase in pial venular pressure by hypercapnia or a direct effect on the blood-brain barrier not related to venous pressure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20/2
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 1986


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)

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