Tissue-type plasminogen activator (t-PA) is the only thrombolytic treatment available for patients with acute ischaemic stroke. However, t-PA can increase permeability of the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Desmoteplase is a plasminogen activator derived from the common vampire bat, currently under clinical development for ischaemic stroke. We compared how t-PA and desmoteplase influenced BBB permeability using a human in vitro model where primary brain endothelial cells (BEC) and astrocytes are co-cultured on the opposite sides of a porous membrane. Permeability changes were evaluated 6 or 24 h post-stimulation by passage of fluorescent albumin across the membrane. Under normoxic conditions, t-PA, but not desmoteplase, increased BBB permeability. Surprisingly, the ability of t-PA to affect the barrier was lost under conditions of oxygen-glucose deprivation (OGD). Addition of plasminogen re-sensitised the BBB to the action of t-PA under both normoxia and OGD, but did not affect the inert behaviour of desmoteplase, even when digested fibrinogen was added to ensure optimal plasmin generation. These observations coincided with plasmin-dependent changes in astrocyte and BEC morphology and disruption of tight junction proteins in BECs, specifically initiated by t-PA but not by desmoteplase. Finally, inhibition of plasmin post-stimulation with t-PA and plasminogen, especially within 2 h, protected the BBB against t-PA-mediated barrier opening. Hence t-PA, but not desmoteplase, increases BBB permeability under both normoxic and OGD conditions in a reversible, plasmin-dependent process. The inability of desmoteplase to increase permeability despite its capacity to generate plasmin provides further support for its use as thrombolytic in patients with ischaemic stroke.
Freeman, R., Niego, B., Croucher, D. R., Pederson, L. O., & Medcalf, R. L. (2014). t-PA, but not desmoteplase, induces plasmin-dependent opening of a blood-brain barrier model under normoxic and ischaemic conditions. Brain Research, 1565, 63 - 73. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brainres.2014.03.027