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J Biol Chem. 2005 Jun 3;280(22):21129-36. Epub 2005 Mar 18.

Proline-rich tyrosine kinase 2 (Pyk2) mediates vascular endothelial-cadherin-based cell-cell adhesion by regulating beta-catenin tyrosine phosphorylation.

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Sanquin Research and Landsteiner Laboratory, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, 1066 CX Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Vascular endothelial-cadherin (VE-cadherin) controls endothelial cell-cell adhesion and preserves endothelial integrity. In order to maintain endothelial barrier function, VE-cadherin function is tightly regulated through mechanisms that involve protein phosphorylation and cytoskeletal dynamics. Here, we show that loss of VE-cadherin function results in intercellular gap formation and a drop in electrical resistance of monolayers of primary human endothelial cells. Detailed analysis revealed that loss of endothelial cell-cell adhesion, induced by VE-cadherin-blocking antibodies, is preceded by and dependent on a rapid activation of Rac1 and increased production of reactive oxygen species. Moreover, VE-cadherin-associated beta-catenin is tyrosine-phosphorylated upon loss of cell-cell contact. Finally, the redox-sensitive proline-rich tyrosine kinase 2 (Pyk2) is activated and recruited to cell-cell junctions following the loss of VE-cadherin homotypic adhesion. Conversely, the inhibition of Pyk2 activity in endothelial cells by the expression of CRNK (CADTK/CAKbeta-related non-kinase), an N-terminal deletion mutant that acts in a dominant negative fashion, not only abolishes the increase in beta-catenin tyrosine phosphorylation but also prevents the loss of endothelial cell-cell contact. These results implicate Pyk2 in the reduced cell-cell adhesion induced by the Rac-mediated production of ROS through the tyrosine phosphorylation of beta-catenin. This signaling is initiated upon loss of VE-cadherin function and is important for our insight in the modulation of endothelial integrity.

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