Disruption of blood-brain barrier integrity and dramatic failure of brain ion homeostasis including fluctuations of pH occurs during cortical spreading depression (CSD) events associated with several neurological disorders, including migraine with aura, traumatic brain injury and stroke. NHE1 is the primary regulator of pH in the central nervous system. The goal of the current study was to investigate the role of sodium-hydrogen exchanger type 1 (NHE1) in blood brain barrier (BBB) integrity during CSD events and the contributions of this antiporter on xenobiotic uptake. Using immortalized cell lines, pharmacologic inhibition and genetic knockdown of NHE1 mitigated the paracellular uptake of radiolabeled sucrose implicating functional NHE1 in BBB maintenance. In contrast, loss of functional NHE1 in endothelial cells facilitated uptake of the anti-migraine therapeutic, sumatriptan. In female rats, cortical KCl but not aCSF selectively reduced total expression of NHE1 in cortex and PAG but increased expression in trigeminal ganglia; no changes were seen in trigeminal nucleus caudalis. Thus, in vitro observations may have a significance in vivo to increase brain sumatriptan levels. Pharmacological inhibition of NHE1 prior to cortical manipulations enhanced the efficacy of sumatriptan at early time-points but induced facial sensitivity alone. Overall, our results suggest that dysregulation of NHE1 contributes to breaches in BBB integrity, drug penetrance, and the behavioral sensitivity to the antimigraine agent, sumatriptan.
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