The majority of the leukocytes cross the endothelial lining of the vessels through cell-cell junctions. The junctional protein Vascular Endothelial (VE)-cadherin is transiently re-distributed from sites of cell-cell contacts during passage of leukocytes. VE-cadherin is part of a protein complex comprising p120-catenin and beta-catenin as intracellular partners. Beta-catenin connects VE-cadherin to alpha-catenin. This VE-cadherin-catenin complex is believed to dynamically control endothelial cell-cell junctions and to regulate the passage of leukocytes, although not much is known about the role of alpha- and beta-catenin during the process of transendothelial migration (TEM). In order to study the importance of the interaction between alpha- and beta-catenin in TEM, we used a cell-permeable version of the peptide encoding the binding site of alpha-catenin for beta-catenin (S27D). The data show that S27D interferes with the interaction between alpha- and beta-catenin and induces a reversible decrease in electrical resistance of the endothelial monolayer. In addition, S27D co-localized with beta-catenin at cell-cell junctions. Surprisingly, transmigration of neutrophils across endothelial monolayers was blocked in the presence of S27D. In conclusion, our results show for the first time that the association of alpha-catenin with the cadherin-catenin complex is required for efficient leukocyte TEM.
Keywords: Transendothelial migration; VE-cadherin; catenin; cell-cell junction; permeability..