Reinterpretation of endothelial cell gaps induced by vasoactive mediators in guinea-pig, mouse and rat: many are transcellular pores

J Physiol. 1997 Nov 1;504 ( Pt 3)(Pt 3):747-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7793.1997.747bd.x.


1. In response to vascular permeabilizing agents, particulates circulating in the blood extravasate from venules through endothelial cell openings. These openings have been thought to be intercellular gaps though recently this view has been challenged. 2. To define the precise location of endothelial cell gaps, serial section electron microscopy and three-dimensional reconstructions were performed in skin and cremaster muscle of guinea-pigs, mice and rats injected locally with agents that enhance microvascular permeability: vascular permeability factor, histamine or serotonin. Ferritin and colloidal carbon were injected intravenously as soluble and particulate macromolecular tracers, respectively. 3. Both tracers extravasated from venules in response to all three permeability enhancing agents. The soluble plasma protein ferritin extravasated primarily by way of vesiculo-vacuolar organelles (VVOs), interconnected clusters of vesicles and vacuoles that traverse venular endothelium. In contrast, exogenous particulates (colloidal carbon) and endogenous particulates (erythrocytes, platelets) extravasated from plasma through transendothelial openings. 4. Serial electron microscopic sections and three-dimensional reconstructions demonstrated that eighty-nine of ninety-two openings were transendothelial pores, not intercellular gaps. Pore frequency increased 3- to 33-fold when carbon was used as tracer. 5. The results demonstrate that soluble and particulate tracers extravasate from venules by apparently different transcellular pathways in response to vasoactive mediators. However, some pores may derive from rearrangements of VVOs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colloids / metabolism
  • Endothelium / cytology
  • Endothelium / physiology*
  • Endothelium / ultrastructure
  • Ferritins / pharmacology
  • Gap Junctions / physiology*
  • Gap Junctions / ultrastructure
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Histamine / pharmacology
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred A
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Muscle, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / ultrastructure
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / cytology
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / physiology
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / ultrastructure
  • Rats
  • Serotonin / pharmacology
  • Skin / ultrastructure


  • Colloids
  • Serotonin
  • Histamine
  • Ferritins