Considering its intolerance to ischemia, it is of critical importance for the brain to efficiently process microvascular occlusions and maintain tissue perfusion. In addition to collateral microvascular flow and enzymatic degradation of emboli, the endothelium has the potential to engulf microparticles and thereby recanalize the vessel, through a process called angiophagy. Here, we set out to study the dynamics of angiophagy in relation to cytoskeletal remodeling in vitro and reperfusion in vivo. We show that polystyrene microspheres and fibrin clots are actively taken up by (brain) endothelial cells in vitro, and chart the dynamics of the actin cytoskeleton during this process using live cell imaging. Whereas microspheres were taken up through the formation of a cup structure by the apical endothelial membrane, fibrin clots were completely engulfed by the cells, marked by dense F-actin accumulation surrounding the clot. Both microspheres and fibrin clots were retained in the endothelial cells. Notably, fibrin clots were not degraded intracellularly. Using an in vivo microembolization rat model, in which microparticles are injected into the common carotid artery, we found that microspheres are transported by the endothelium from the microvasculature into the brain parenchyma. Microembolization with microspheres caused temporal opening of the blood–brain barrier and vascular nonperfusion, followed by microsphere extravasation and restoration of vessel perfusion over time. Taken together, angiophagy is accompanied by active cytoskeletal remodeling of the endothelium, and is an effective mechanism to restore perfusion of the occluded microvasculature in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Article number195
JournalActa neuropathologica communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Angiophagy
  • Cerebral microcirculation
  • Embolus
  • Endothelial cells

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