Permeability of the blood-brain barrier to peptides: An approach to the development of therapeutically useful analogs

William A. Banks, Kenneth L. Audus, Thomas P. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Peptides have been shown in both in vivo and in vitro systems to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and so affect function on the side contralateral to their origin. Some peptides cross primarily by transmembrane diffusion, a nonsaturable mechanism largely dependent on the lipid solubility of the peptide. Other peptides are transported by saturable systems across the BBB. These transport systems can be in the CNS to blood direction, as in the cases of Tyr-MIF-1 and methionine enkephalin, in the blood to CNS direction, as in the case of peptide T, or bidirectional, as in the case of LHRH. Other factors that also affect the amount of peptide crossing the BBB include binding in blood, volume of distribution, enzymatic resistance, and half-time disappearance from the blood. An in vitro model of the BBB has been characterized and used to confirm that peptides can cross the BBB. Results with the model agree with those obtained in vivo and have been used to study the permeability of the BBB to peptides, the effect of peptides on BBB integrity, the cellular pathway peptides and proteins use to cross the BBB, and the ability of the BBB to degrade peptides. The in vivo and in vitro methods have been used together to develop halogenated enkephalin analogs that are enzymatically resistant, cross the BBB readily to accumulate in areas of the brain rich in opiate receptors, and are powerful analgesics. This shows how the principles elucidated for peptide passage across the BBB can be used to develop therapeutic peptides and how those peptides can be further tested in complementary in vivo and in vitro systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1289-1294
Number of pages6
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1992


  • Analgesia
  • Enkephalin
  • Microvessels
  • Monolayers
  • TYR-MIF-1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Endocrinology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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