Intracellular signalling involved in modulating human endothelial barrier function

J Anat. 2002 Jun;200(6):549-60. doi: 10.1046/j.1469-7580.2002.00060.x.


The endothelium dynamically regulates the extravasation of hormones, macromolecules and other solutes. In pathological conditions, endothelial hyperpermeability can be induced by vasoactive agents, which induce tiny leakage sites between the cells, and by cytokines, in particular vascular endothelial growth factor, which increase the exchange of plasma proteins by vesicles and intracellular pores. It is generally believed that the interaction of actin and non-muscle myosin in the periphery of the endothelial cell, and the destabilization of endothelial junctions, are required for endothelial hyperpermeability induced by vasoactive agents. Transient short-term hyperpermeability induced by histamine involves Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent activation of the myosin light chain (MLC) kinase. Prolonged elevated permeability induced by thrombin in addition involves activation of the small GTPase RhoA and Rho kinase, which inhibits dephosphorylation of MLC. It also involves the action of other protein kinases. Several mechanisms can increase endothelial barrier function, depending on the tissue affected and the cause of hyperpermeability. They include blockage of specific receptors, and elevation of cyclic AMP by agents such as beta2-adrenergic agents. Depending on the vascular bed, nitric oxide and cyclic GMP can counteract or aggravate endothelial hyperpermeability. Finally, inhibitors of RhoA activation and Rho kinase represent a potentially valuable group of agents with endothelial hyperpermeability-reducing properties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism*
  • Capillary Leak Syndrome / metabolism
  • Capillary Permeability / physiology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Myosins / metabolism*
  • Second Messenger Systems / physiology*


  • Actins
  • Myosins