Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is essential for the development and function of the central nervous system (CNS). However, the brain and its interstitium have largely been thought of as a single entity through which CSF circulates, and it is not known whether specific cell populations within the CNS preferentially interact with the CSF. Here, we develop a technique for CSF tracking, gold nanoparticle-enhanced X-ray microtomography, to achieve micrometer-scale resolution visualization of CSF circulation patterns during development. Using this method and subsequent histological analysis in rodents, we identify previously uncharacterized CSF pathways from the subarachnoid space (particularly the basal cisterns) that mediate CSF-parenchymal interactions involving 24 functional-anatomic cell groupings in the brain and spinal cord. CSF distribution to these areas is largely restricted to early development and is altered in posthemorrhagic hydrocephalus. Our study also presents particle size-dependent CSF circulation patterns through the CNS including interaction between neurons and small CSF tracers, but not large CSF tracers. These findings have implications for understanding the biological basis of normal brain development and the pathogenesis of a broad range of disease states, including hydrocephalus.

Original languageEnglish
Article number453
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


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