The endothelium of the brain microvessels and the choroid plexus epithelium form highly specialized cellular barriers referred to as blood-brain interfaces through which molecular exchanges take place between the blood and the neuropil or the cerebrospinal fluid, respectively. Within the brain, the ependyma and the pia-glia limitans modulate exchanges between the neuropil and the cerebrospinal fluid. All these interfaces are key elements of neuroprotection and fulfill trophic functions; both properties are critical to harmonious brain development and maturation. By analogy to hepatic bilirubin detoxification pathways, we review the transport and metabolic mechanisms which in all these interfaces may participate in the regulation of bilirubin cerebral bioavailability in physiologic conditions, both in adult and in developing brain. We specifically address the role of ABC and OATP transporters, glutathione-S-transferases, and the potential involvement of glucuronoconjugation and oxidative metabolic pathways. Regulatory mechanisms are explored which are involved in the induction of these pathways and represent potential pharmacological targets to prevent bilirubin accumulation into the brain. We then review the possible alteration of the neuroprotective and trophic barrier functions in the course of bilirubin-induced neurological dysfunctions resulting from hyperbilirubinemia. Finally, we highlight the role of the blood-brain and blood-CSF barriers in regulating the brain biodisposition of candidate drugs for the treatment or prevention of bilirubin-induced brain injury.
Keywords: Bilirubin, blood-brain barrier, blood-CSF barrier, ependyma, ABC transporters, transcription factors, conjugation, glutathione
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