The glymphatic system is a recently defined brain-wide network of perivascular spaces along which cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and interstitial solutes exchange. Astrocyte endfeet encircling the perivascular space form a physical barrier in between these two compartments, and fluid and solutes that are not taken up by astrocytes move out of the perivascular space through the junctions in between astrocyte endfeet. However, little is known about the anatomical structure and the physiological roles of the astrocyte endfeet in regulating the local perivascular exchange. Here, visualizing astrocyte endfoot–endfoot junctions with immunofluorescent labeling against the protein megalencephalic leukoencephalopathy with subcortical cysts-1 (MLC1), we characterized endfoot dimensions along the mouse cerebrovascular tree. We observed marked heterogeneity in endfoot dimensions along vessels of different sizes, and of different types. Specifically, endfoot size was positively correlated with the vessel diameters, with large vessel segments surrounded by large endfeet and small vessel segments surrounded by small endfeet. This association was most pronounced along arterial, rather than venous segments. Computational modeling simulating vascular trees with uniform or varying endfeet dimensions demonstrates that varying endfoot dimensions maintain near constant perivascular-interstitial flux despite correspondingly declining perivascular pressures along the cerebrovascular tree through the cortical depth. These results describe a novel anatomical feature of perivascular astroglial endfeet and suggest that endfoot heterogeneity may be an evolutionary adaptation to maintain perivascular CSF-interstitial fluid exchange through deep brain structures.
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