Liver X Receptor Alpha Is Important in Maintaining Blood-Brain Barrier Function

Elien Wouters, Nienke M. de Wit, Jasmine Vanmol, Susanne M. A. van der Pol, Bert van Het Hof, Daniela Sommer, Melanie Loix, Dirk Geerts, Jan Ake Gustafsson, Knut R. Steffensen, Tim Vanmierlo, Jeroen F. J. Bogie, Jerome J. A. Hendriks, Helga E. de Vries*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Web of Science)


Dysfunction of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) contributes significantly to the pathogenesis of several neuroinflammatory diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS). Potential players that regulate BBB function are the liver X receptors (LXRs), which are ligand activated transcription factors comprising two isoforms, LXR alpha, and LXR beta. However, the role of LXR alpha, and LXR beta in regulating BBB (dys)function during neuroinflammation remains unclear, as well as their individual involvement. Therefore, the goal of the present study is to unravel whether LXR isoforms have different roles in regulating BBB function under neuroinflammatory conditions. We demonstrate that LXR alpha, and not LXR beta, is essential to maintain barrier integrity in vitro. Specific knockout of LXR alpha in brain endothelial cells resulted in a more permeable barrier with reduced expression of tight junctions. Additionally, the observed dysfunction was accompanied by increased endothelial inflammation, as detected by enhanced expression of vascular cell adhesion molecule (VCAM-1) and increased transendothelial migration of monocytes toward inflammatory stimuli. To unravel the importance of LXR alpha in BBB function in vivo, we made use of the experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) MS mouse model. Induction of EAE in a constitutive LXR alpha knockout mouse and in an endothelial specific LXR alpha knockout mouse resulted in a more severe disease score in these animals. This was accompanied by higher numbers of infiltrating leukocytes, increased endothelial VCAM-1 expression, and decreased expression of the tight junction molecule claudin-5. Together, this study reveals that LXR alpha is indispensable for maintaining BBB integrity and its immune quiescence. Targeting the LXR alpha isoform may help in the development of novel therapeutic strategies to prevent BBB dysfunction, and thereby neuroinflammatory disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1811
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2019


  • blood-brain barrier
  • permeability
  • endothelium
  • liver X receptors
  • neuroinflammation
  • BETA

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