Purpose of review: Vascular integrity is characterized by a tight control of permeability to cells and solutes and by resistance to blood flow. In several pathologies including tumor angiogenesis, vascular malformations, hemorrhagic stroke and others, there is the need to stabilize the vessels and prevent undesired bleeding or edema. Here, we discuss the current knowledge on the role of endothelial cell-to-cell adherens junctions in maintaining vascular integrity.
Recent findings: The identification of several components of adherens junctions in endothelial cells helped understanding of the complex role of these structures not only in maintaining cell-to-cell adhesion but also in transferring intracellular signals. Vascular endothelial (VE)-cadherin, an endothelial-specific adhesion protein at adherens junctions, was found to interact with several signaling partners that induce contact inhibition of growth, decrease in permeability, tight junction organization and others. Changes in VE-cadherin levels in vivo may significantly affect vascular permeability, and induce uncontrolled growth and vascular fragility.
Summary: In the past years, the research on angiogenesis was mostly directed to the definition of the mechanisms able to modulate vascular growth. We now understand that in many pathological conditions we do not simply need to increase or inhibit vascularization but we also need to develop tools able to stabilize organ perfusion and to avoid hemorrhages or edema.