Pericyte-mediated capillary constriction decreases cerebral blood flow in stroke after an occluded artery is unblocked. The determinants of pericyte tone are poorly understood. We show that a small rise in cytoplasmic Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) in pericytes activated chloride efflux through the Ca2+-gated anion channel TMEM16A, thus depolarizing the cell and opening voltage-gated calcium channels. This mechanism strongly amplified the pericyte [Ca2+]i rise and capillary constriction evoked by contractile agonists and ischemia. In a rodent stroke model, TMEM16A inhibition slowed the ischemia-evoked pericyte [Ca2+]i rise, capillary constriction, and pericyte death; reduced neutrophil stalling; and improved cerebrovascular reperfusion. Genetic analysis implicated altered TMEM16A expression in poor patient recovery from ischemic stroke. Thus, pericyte TMEM16A is a crucial regulator of cerebral capillary function and a potential therapeutic target for stroke and possibly other disorders of impaired microvascular flow, such as Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.


Nils Korte, Zeki Ilkan, Claire L. Pearson, Thomas Pfeiffer, Prabhav Singhal, Jason R. Rock, Huma Sethi, Dipender Gill, David Attwell, Paolo Tammaro


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