Blood flow regulation in the brain is dynamically regulated to meet the metabolic demands of active neuronal populations. Recent evidence has demonstrated that capillary endothelial cells are essential mediators of neurovascular coupling that sense neuronal activity and generate a retrograde, propagating, hyperpolarizing signal that dilates upstream arterioles. Here, we tested the hypothesis that transient receptor potential ankyrin 1 (TRPA1) channels in capillary endothelial cells are significant contributors to functional hyperemic responses that underlie neurovascular coupling in the brain. Using an integrative ex vivo and in vivo approach, we demonstrate the functional presence of TRPA1 channels in brain capillary endothelial cells, and show that activation of these channels within the capillary bed, including the post-arteriole transitional region covered by ensheathing mural cells, initiates a retrograde signal that dilates upstream parenchymal arterioles. Notably, this signaling exhibits a unique biphasic mode of propagation that begins within the capillary network as a short-range, Ca2+ signal dependent on endothelial pannexin-1 channel/purinergic P2X receptor communication pathway and then is converted to a rapid, inward-rectifying K+ channel-mediated electrical signal in the post-arteriole transitional region that propagates upstream to parenchymal arterioles. Two-photon laser-scanning microscopy further demonstrated that conductive vasodilation occurs in vivo, and that TRPA1 is necessary for functional hyperemia within the somatosensory cortex of mice. Together, these data establish a role for endothelial TRPA1 channels as sensors of neuronal activity and show that they respond accordingly by initiating a vasodilatory response that redirects blood to regions of metabolic demand.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience