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Nat Cell Biol. 2006 Nov;8(11):1223-34. Epub 2006 Oct 22.

VEGF controls endothelial-cell permeability by promoting the beta-arrestin-dependent endocytosis of VE-cadherin.

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  • 1Oral and Pharyngeal Cancer Branch, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health, DHHS, Bethesda, MD 20892-4340, USA.


How vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) induces vascular permeability, its first described function, remains poorly understood. Here, we provide evidence of a novel signalling pathway by which VEGF stimulation promotes the rapid endocytosis of a key endothelial cell adhesion molecule, VE-cadherin, thereby disrupting the endothelial barrier function. This process is initiated by the activation of the small GTPase Rac by VEGFR-2 through the Src-dependent phosphorylation of Vav2, a guanine nucleotide-exchange factor. Rac activation, in turn, promotes the p21-activated kinase (PAK)-mediated phosphorylation of a highly conserved motif within the intracellular tail of VE-cadherin. Surprisingly, this results in the recruitment of beta-arrestin2 to serine-phosphorylated VE-cadherin, thereby promoting its internalization into clathrin-coated vesicles and the consequent disassembly of intercellular junctions. Ultimately, this novel biochemical route by which VEGF promotes endothelial permeability through the beta-arrestin2-dependent endocytosis of VE-cadherin may help identify new therapeutic targets for the treatment of many human diseases that are characterized by vascular leakage.

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