Cytoskeletal regulation of pulmonary vascular permeability

Steven M. Dudek, Joe G.N. Garcia

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

879 Scopus citations


The endothelial cell (EC) lining of the pulmonary vasculature forms a semipermeable barrier between the blood and the interstitium of the lung. Disruption of this barrier occurs during inflammatory disease states such as acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome and results in the movement of fluid and macromolecules into the interstitium and pulmonary air spaces. These processes significantly contribute to the high morbidity and mortality of patients afflicted with acute lung injury. The critical importance of pulmonary vascular barrier function is shown by the balance between competing EC contractile forces, which generate centripetal tension, and adhesive cell-cell and cell-matrix tethering forces, which regulate cell shape. Both competing forces in this model are intimately linked through the endothelial cytoskeleton, a complex network of actin microfilaments, microtubules, and intermediate filaments, which combine to regulate shape change and transduce signals within and between EC. A key EC contractile event in several models of agonist-induced barrier dysfunction is the phosphorylation of regulatory myosin light chains catalyzed by Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent myosin light chain kinase and/or through the activity of the Rho/Rho kinase pathway. Intercellular contacts along the endothelial monolayer consist primarily of two types of complexes (adherens junctions and tight junctions), which link to the actin cytosketeton to provide both mechanical stability and transduction of extracellular signals into the cell. Focal adhesions provide additional adhesive forces in barrier regulation by forming a critical bridge for bidirectional signal transduction between the actin cytoskeleton and the cell-matrix interface. Increasingly, the effects of mechanical forces such as shear stress and ventilator-induced stretch on EC barrier function are being recognized. The critical role of the endothelial cytoskeleton in integrating these multiple aspects of pulmonary vascular permeability provides a fertile area for the development of clinically important barrier-modulating therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1487-1500
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001


  • Actin-binding proteins
  • Actomyosin contraction
  • Acute lung injury
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Endothelium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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