Tissue-type plasminogen activator (t-PA) can modulate permeability of the neurovascular unit and exacerbate injury in ischemic stroke. We examined the effects of t-PA using in vitro models of the blood-brain barrier. t-PA caused a concentration-dependent increase in permeability. This effect was dependent on plasmin formation and potentiated in the presence of plasminogen. An inactive t-PA variant inhibited the t-PA-mediated increase in permeability, whereas blockade of lowdensity lipoprotein receptors or exposed lysine residues resulted in similar inhibition, implying a role for both a t-PA receptor, most likely a low-density lipoprotein receptor, and a plasminogen receptor. This effect was selective to t-PA and its close derivative tenecteplase. The truncated t-PA variant reteplase had a minor effect on permeability, whereas urokinase and desmoteplase were ineffective. t-PA also induced marked shape changes in both brain endothelial cells and astrocytes. Changes in astrocyte morphology coincided with increased F-actin staining intensity, larger focal adhesion size, and elevated levels of phosphorylated myosin. Inhibition of Rho kinase blocked these changes and reduced t-PA/plasminogen-mediated increase in permeability. Hence plasmin, generated on the cell surface selectively by t-PA, modulates the astro-cytic cytoskeleton, leading to an increase in blood-brain barrier permeability. Blockade of the Rho/Rho kinase pathway may have beneficial consequences during thrombolytic therapy. A? 2012 by The American Society of Hematology.