Introduction The instant developmental switch of nutritional and oxygen supply from the umbilical cord to the lungs and the intestinal canal are necessary and dramatic changes for the offspring in order to adapt to life outside the uterus. This period is also characterised by exposure and colonisation by live bacteria, an assumed important step towards physiological programming of the newborn. The perinatal period is associated with establishment of a functional blood-brain barrier (BBB), essential for the brain development and protection from adverse systemic influences, which in rodents, has been suggested to be regulated by intestinal microbiome. To investigate whether the pig could be used as a model for preterm infant brain maturation, we studied the BBB in preterm and term newborn piglets.
Methods The integrity of the BBB was evaluated in caesarean-delivered preterm (90% gestation) and term-born neonate pigs immediately after birth (n = 10). The expression of main tight junctions proteins (TJPs) controlling the BBB, and the glucose transporter-1 (Glut-1) in the hippocampus and striatum were determined by western blot technique.
Results Alterations of TJPs expression in brain tissue were observed in hippocampus and striatum of preterm piglets compared to full-term controls. In addition, Glut-1 expression in the brain endothelial cells exhibited changes in a region-specific manner.
Conclusion This pilot study demonstrate altered expression patterns of TJPs and Glut-1 in hippocampus and striatum of preterm piglets compared to full term piglets which support that the BBB impairment observed in rodents may also extend to the BBB in preterm piglets.