Culture of brain capillary pericytes for cytosolic calcium measurements and calcium imaging studies

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Pericytes are associated with endothelial cells and astrocytic endfeet in a structure known as the neurovascular unit (NVU). Brain capillary pericyte function is not fully known. Pericytes have been suggested to be involved in capillary development, regulation of endothelial barrier tightness and trancytosis activity, regulation of capillary tone and to play crucial roles in certain brain pathologies. Pericytes are challenging to investigate in the intact brain due to the difficulties in visualizing processes in the brain parenchyma, as well as the close proximity to the other cells of the NVU. The present protocol describes a method for isolation and culture of primary bovine brain capillary pericytes and their following usage in calcium imaging studies, where effects of agonists involved in brain signaling and pathologies can be investigated. Cortical capillary fragments are allowed to attach to the bottom of culture flasks and, after 6 days, endothelial cells and pericytes have grown out from the capillary fragments. The endothelial cells are removed by gentle trypsinization and pericytes are cultured for 5 additional days before passaging. Isolated pericytes are seeded in 96-well culture plates and loaded with the calcium indicator dye (Fura-2 acetoxymethyl (AM)) to allow for measurements of intracellular calcium levels in a plate reader setup. Alternatively, pericytes are seeded on coverslips and mounted in cell chambers. Following loading with the calcium indicator (Cal-520 AM), calcium live-imaging can be performed using confocal microscopy at an excitation wavelength of 488 nm and emission wavelength of 510-520 nm. The method described here has been used to obtain the first intracellular calcium measurements from primary brain capillary pericytes, demonstrating that pericytes are stimulated via ATP and are able to contract in vitro.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere61253
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - May 2020

    Research areas

  • ATP, Ca-signaling, Cal-520 AM, Cell culture, Confocal laser scanning microscopy, Fura-2 AM, Issue 159, Neuroscience, Pericyte, Plate reader

ID: 243154153