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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Apr 14;106(15):6393-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0810687106. Epub 2009 Mar 30.

Caveolae are required for protease-selective signaling by protease-activated receptor-1.

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Department of Pharmacology, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7365, USA.


Protease-activated receptor-1 (PAR(1)) is a G-protein-coupled receptor uniquely activated by proteolysis. Thrombin, a coagulant protease, induces inflammatory responses and endothelial barrier permeability through the activation of PAR(1). Activated protein C (APC), an anti-coagulant protease, also activates PAR(1). However, unlike thrombin, APC elicits anti-inflammatory responses and protects against endothelial barrier dysfunction induced by thrombin. We found that thrombin and APC signaling were lost in PAR(1)-deficient endothelial cells, indicating that PAR(1) is the major effector of protease signaling. To delineate the mechanism responsible for protease-selective signaling by PAR(1), we examined the effect of APC and thrombin on the activation of RhoA and Rac1, small GTPases that differentially regulate endothelial barrier permeability. Thrombin caused robust RhoA signaling but not Rac1 activation, whereas APC stimulated a marked increase in Rac1 activation but not RhoA signaling, consistent with the opposing functions of these proteases on endothelial barrier integrity. Strikingly, APC signaling and endothelial barrier protection effects were abolished in cells lacking caveolin-1, whereas thrombin signaling remained intact. These findings suggest that compartmentalization of PAR(1) in caveolae is critical for APC selective signaling to Rac1 activation and endothelial barrier protection. We further report that APC induces PAR(1) phosphorylation and desensitizes endothelial cells to thrombin signaling but promotes limited receptor cleavage and negligible internalization and degradation even after prolonged APC exposure. Thus, APC selective signaling and endothelial barrier protective effects are mediated through compartmentalization of PAR(1) in caveolae and a novel mechanism of PAR(1) signal regulation.

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