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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Jun 28;102(26):9270-5. Epub 2005 Jun 20.

S1P3 receptor-induced reorganization of epithelial tight junctions compromises lung barrier integrity and is potentiated by TNF.

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  • 1Department of Immunology, Core Microscopy Facility, Helen L. Dorris Child and Adolescent Neuro-Psychiatric Disorder Institute, The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Pulmonary pathologies including adult respiratory distress syndrome are characterized by disruption of pulmonary integrity and edema compromising respiratory function. Sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) is a lipid mediator synthesized and/or stored in mast cells, platelets, and epithelial cells, with production up-regulated by the proinflammatory cytokines IL-1 and TNF. S1P administration via the airways but not via the vasculature induces lung leakage. Using receptor-null mice, we show that S1P, acting on S1P3 receptor expressed on both type I and type II alveolar epithelial cells but not vascular endothelium, induces pulmonary edema by acute tight junction opening. WT but not S1P3-null mice showed disruption of pulmonary epithelial tight junctions and the appearance of paracellular gaps between epithelial cells by electron microscopy within 1 h of airways exposure to S1P. We further show by fluorescence microscopy that S1P induced rapid loss of ZO-1 reactivity, an essential component of the cytoplasmic plaque associated with tight junctions, as well as of the tetraspannin Claudin-18, an integral membrane organizer of tight junctions. S1P shows synergistic activity with the proinflammatory cytokine TNF, showing both pulmonary edema and mortality at subthreshold S1P doses. Specifically, preexposure of mice to subthreshold doses of TNF, which alone induced no lung edema, exacerbated S1P-induced edema and impaired survival. S1P, acting through S1P3, regulates epithelial integrity and acts additively with TNF in compromising respiratory barrier function. Because S1P3-null mice are resistant to S1P-induced pulmonary leakage, either alone or in the presence of TNF, S1P3 antagonism may be useful in protecting epithelial integrity in pulmonary disease.

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