Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy can probe albumin dynamics inside lung endothelial glycocalyx

Andrew P. Stevens, Vladimir Hlady, Randal O. Dull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


The endothelial glycocalyx is believed to play a major role in capillary permeability by functioning as a macromolecular barrier overlying the intercellular junction. Little is known about the functional attributes of the glycocalyx (i.e., porosity and permeability) or which constituents contribute to its overall structure-function relationship. In this report, we demonstrate the utility of fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) to measure albumin diffusion rates and concentration profiles above the cell surface and overlying the intercellular junctions of lung capillary endothelial cells. Albumin diffusion rates and concentration profiles were obtained before and after enzymatic digestion of the glycocalyx with pronase, heparanase, or hyaluronidase. The results suggest a structure interacting with albumin located from 1.0 to 2.0 μm above the cell membrane capable of reducing albumin diffusion by 30% while simultaneously increasing albumin concentration five-fold. Digestion of the glycocalyx with pronase or heparanase resulted in only modest changes in albumin diffusion and concentration profiles. Hyaluronidase digestion completely eliminated albumin-glycocalyx interactions. These data also suggest that hyaluronan is a major determinant for albumin interactions with the lung endothelial glycocalyx. Confocal images of heparan sulfate and hyaluronan confirm a cell-surface layer 2-3 μm in thickness, thus supporting FCS measurements. In summary, we report the first use of FCS to probe extracellular structures and further our understanding of the structure-function relationship of the lung microvascular endothelial glycocalyx.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L328-L335
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2007


  • Diffusion
  • Permeability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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