Aluminum and zinc are two important trace elements in an organism. Although several studies have demonstrated their impacts on the intelligence, very little was known about their effects on the integrity of blood-brain barrier (BBB). To study the effects of aluminum and zinc on the permeability of BBB, different doses of aluminum and appropriate zinc were administered to rats. Evans blue was detected in brain to determine the permeability of BBB. The ultrastructure of BBB was observed under the transmission electron microscope. Immunohistochemistry and Western blot method were used to detect the expression of skeleton protein F-actin and tight junction protein occludin in brain capillary endothelium.
The data indicated that compared with the control group, Evans blue in brains increased (P<0.01), the ultrastructure of BBB changed and the expression of F-actin and occludin decreased (P<0.01) in the aluminum-toxic group. Compared with the aluminum-toxic groups, the permeability of BBB to Evans blue decreased (P<0.01), the damage of the BBB ultrastructure was attenuated and the expression of F-actin and occludin increased (P<0.05) in the aluminum-zinc group. Our present studies suggest that aluminum increases the permeability of BBB by changing its ultrastructure and the expression of occludin and F-actin. Zinc can protect the integrity of BBB in juvenile rats that are exposed to aluminum and inhibit the decrease of tight junction protein occludin and F-actin expression in BBB.