The vasculature is one of the most dynamic tissues that encounter numerous mechanical cues derived from pulsatile blood flow, blood pressure, activity of smooth muscle cells in the vessel wall, and transmigration of immune cells. The inner layer of blood and lymphatic vessels is covered by the endothelium, a monolayer of cells which separates blood from tissue, an important function that it fulfills even under the dynamic circumstances of the vascular microenvironment. In addition, remodeling of the endothelial barrier during angiogenesis and trafficking of immune cells is achieved by specific modulation of cell-cell adhesion structures between the endothelial cells. In recent years, there have been many new discoveries in the field of cellular mechanotransduction which controls the formation and destabilization of the vascular barrier. Force-induced adaptation at endothelial cell-cell adhesion structures is a crucial node in these processes that challenge the vascular barrier. One of the key examples of a force-induced molecular event is the recruitment of vinculin to the VE-cadherin complex upon pulling forces at cell-cell junctions. Here, we highlight recent advances in the current understanding of mechanotransduction responses at, and derived from, endothelial cell-cell junctions. We further discuss their importance for vascular barrier function and remodeling in development, inflammation, and vascular disease.
Keywords: Adherens junction; Cardiovascular disease; Catenin; Cytoskeleton; Endothelial integrity; Mechanosensing; PECAM-1; Permeability; Vascular stiffness.