Role of Rho GTPases in thrombin-induced lung vascular endothelial cells barrier dysfunction

Anna A. Birukova, Ksenya Smurova, Konstantin G. Birukov, Kozo Kaibuchi, Joe G.N. Garcia, Alexander D. Verin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

246 Scopus citations


Thrombin-induced barrier dysfunction of pulmonary endothelial monolayer is associated with dramatic cytoskeletal reorganization, activation of actomyosin contraction, and gap formation. Phosphorylation of regulatory myosin light chains (MLC) is a key mechanism of endothelial cell (EC) contraction and barrier dysfunction, which is triggered by Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent MLC kinase (MLCK) and Rho-associated kinase (Rho-kinase). The role of MLCK in EC barrier regulation has been previously described; however, Rho-mediated pathway in thrombin-induced pulmonary EC dysfunction is not yet precisely characterized. Here, we demonstrate that thrombin-induced decreases in transendothelial electrical resistance (TER) indicating EC barrier dysfunction are universal for human and bovine pulmonary endothelium, and involve membrane translocation and direct activation of small GTPase Rho and its downstream target Rho-kinase. Transient Rho membrane translocation coincided with translocation of upstream Rho activator, guanosine nucleotide exchange factor p115-RhoGEF. Rho mediated activation of downstream target, Rho-kinase induced phosphorylation of the EC MLC phosphatase (MYPT1) at Thr686 and Thr850, resulting in MYPT1 inactivation, accumulation of diphospho-MLC, actin remodeling, and cell contraction. The specific Rho-kinase inhibitor, Y27632, abolished MYPT1 phosphorylation, MLC phosphorylation, significantly attenuated stress fiber formation and thrombin-induced TER decrease. Furthermore, expression of dominant-negative Rho and Rho-kinase abolished thrombin-induced stress fiber formation and MLC phosphorylation. Our data, which provide comprehensive analysis of Rho-mediated signal transduction in pulmonary EC, demonstrate involvement of guanosine nucleotide exchange factor, p115-RhoGEF, in thrombin-mediated Rho regulation, and suggest Rho, Rho-kinase, and MYPT1 as potential pharmacological and gene therapy targets critical for prevention of thrombin-induced EC barrier disruption and pulmonary edema associated with acute lung injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-77
Number of pages14
JournalMicrovascular Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004


  • Actin
  • Myosin
  • Myosin phosphatase
  • Phosphorylation
  • Pulmonary endothelium
  • Rho-kinase
  • p115-RhoGEF

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Cell Biology


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