Regulation of endothelial cell gap formation and paracellular permeability.

J. G. Garcia, K. L. Schaphorst

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156 Scopus citations


Investigation of the regulation of permeability properties of the endothelium has yielded evidence to support the concept of a dual regulation of EC gap formation and barrier function. In this model, the primary determinants of EC permeability are tethering/adhesive properties (Figure 1) and tensile centripetal force generation (Figure 2). The importance of actin-myosin interactions and active cellular contraction and force generation has been reviewed. In the model of thrombin-induced EC barrier dysfunction, there is a strong shift in the MLC species from the unphosphorylated to the diphosphorylated form, indicating activation of MLCK, a key enzyme whose importance in EC contraction has been well established. Although important differences between EC and SMC exist, endothelial cell gap formation involves actomyosin-dependent contractile mechanisms similar to SMC, a cellular system in which MLC phosphorylation correlates with the initial rate of tension development. The increase in MLC phosphorylation and isometric tension is consistent with the hypothesis that activation of signal transduction mediates an increase in isometric tension to a new level of "latch state" through the cytoskeleton. Thus, the available evidence implicates a strong role for cellular force generation and contraction in the evolution of thrombin-induced barrier dysfunction. Accumulating evidence also indicates that modulation of tethering properties, primarily those involving cell-matrix and cell-cell adhesion, is also a key determinant of basal EC barrier properties as well as agonist-mediated barrier dysfunction. Because each of these focal adhesion constituents may be involved in establishing tethering properties in endothelium, they each may be involved in determining barrier permeability and may be involved in the evolution of agonist-mediated barrier dysfunction. Therefore, in addition to MLCK-dependent active tensile force generation, agonist-induced barrier dysfunction may occur via MLCK-independent pathways that rely on basal levels of MLC phosphorylation or by affecting proteins involved in tethering properties of endothelium that contribute to barrier function. Further examination of tethering force properties, combined with elucidation of EC relaxation via MLC dephosphorylation may yield clues as to how this important vascular barrier is maintained and restored after vascular insult.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-126
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of investigative medicine : the official publication of the American Federation for Clinical Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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