The molecular, cellular, and morphological components of blood-brain barrier development during embryogenesis

Nellwyn Hagan, Ayal Ben-Zvi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


The blood brain barrier (BBB) is a hallmark of blood vessels in the brain and functions to protect the brain from unwanted blood born materials, support the unique metabolic needs of the brain, and define a stable environment crucial for brain homeostasis. The temporal profile of BBB development was long debated until recent studies produced convincing evidence demonstrating that the BBB is established and functional during embryogenesis. Here we review research focused on the molecular, cellular and morphological characteristics of BBB development. Our review discusses the precise temporal profile of BBB formation, the development of endothelial cell ultrastructure and the molecular components that provide sealing and transporting properties, the molecular pathways involved in the induction of BBB specific endothelial cell differentiation, the signaling pathways driving developmental angiogenesis versus barrier-genesis, and finally the contribution of other cell types to BBB formation. We examine aspects of BBB development that are still unresolved while highlighting research tools that could provide new insight to answer these open questions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)7-15
Number of pages9
JournalSeminars in Cell and Developmental Biology
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Angiogenesis
  • Barrier-genesis
  • Blood brain barrier
  • Embryonic development
  • Endothelial differentiation
  • Molecular mechanisms


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