Although many reports have revealed dysfunction of endothelial cells in aging, resulting in blood-brain barrier (BBB) breakdown, the underlying mechanism or mechanisms remain to be explored. Here, we find that acid sphingomyelinase (ASM) is a critical factor for regulating brain endothelial barrier integrity. ASM is increased in brain endothelium and/or plasma of aged humans and aged mice, leading to BBB disruption by increasing caveolae-mediated transcytosis. Genetic inhibition and endothelial-specific knockdown of ASM in mice ameliorated BBB breakdown and neurocognitive impairment during aging. Using primary mouse brain endothelial cells, we found that ASM regulated the caveolae-cytoskeleton interaction through protein phosphatase 1-mediated ezrin/radixin/moesin (ERM) dephosphorylation and apoptosis. Moreover, mice with conditional ASM overexpression in brain endothelium accelerated significant BBB impairment and neurodegenerative change. Overall, these results reveal a novel role for ASM in the control of neurovascular function in aging, suggesting that ASM may represent a new therapeutic target for anti-aging. Park et al. demonstrate that ASM activity is increased in brain endothelial cells and/or plasma in aged mice, leading to BBB leakage by caveolae-mediated transcytosis via ERM dephosphorylation. Moreover, specific ASM overexpression in brain endothelium accelerates BBB and neuronal dysfunction.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)