Small GTPase Rac is important regulator of endothelial cell (EC) barrier enhancement by prostacyclin characterized by increased peripheral actin cytoskeleton and increased interactions between VE-cadherin and other adherens junction (AJ) proteins. This study utilized complementary approaches including siRNA knockdown, culturing in Ca(2+) -free medium, and VE-cadherin blocking antibody to alter VE-cadherin extracellular interactions to investigate the role of VE-cadherin outside-in signaling in modulation of Rac activation and EC barrier regulation by prostacyclin analog iloprost. Spatial analysis of Rac activation in pulmonary EC by FRET revealed additional spike in iloprost-induced Rac activity at the sites of newly formed cell-cell junctions. In contrast, disruption of VE-cadherin extracellular trans-interactions suppressed iloprost-activated Rac signaling and attenuated EC barrier enhancement and cytoskeletal remodeling. These inhibitory effects were associated with decreased membrane accumulation and activation of Rac-specific guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) Tiam1 and Vav2. Conversely, plating of pulmonary EC on surfaces coated with extracellular VE-cadherin domain further promoted iloprost-induced Rac signaling. In the model of thrombin-induced EC barrier recovery, blocking of VE-cadherin trans-interactions attenuated activation of Rac pathway during recovery phase and delayed suppression of Rho signaling and restoration of EC barrier properties. These results suggest that VE-cadherin outside-in signaling controls locally Rac activity stimulated by barrier protective agonists. This control is essential for maximal EC barrier enhancement and accelerated barrier recovery.
Copyright © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.