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Thromb Haemost. 2010 Jan;103(1):40-55. doi: 10.1160/TH09-06-0403. Epub 2009 Sep 30.

Driving Rho GTPase activity in endothelial cells regulates barrier integrity.

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Department for Physiology, VU University Medical Center, Institute for Cardiovascular Research, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.


In the past decade understanding of the role of the Rho GTPases RhoA, Rac1 and Cdc42 has been developed from regulatory proteins that regulate specific actin cytoskeletal structures - stress fibers, lamellipodia and filopodia - to complex integrators of cytoskeletal structures that can exert multiple functions depending on the cellular context. Fundamental to these functions are three-dimensional complexes between the individual Rho GTPases, their specific activators (GEFs) and inhibitors (GDIs and GAPs), which greatly outnumber the Rho GTPases themselves, and additional regulatory proteins. By this complexity of regulation different vasoactive mediators can induce various cytoskeletal structures that enable the endothelial cell (EC) to respond adequately. In this review we have focused on this complexity and the consequences of Rho GTPase regulation for endothelial barrier function. The permeability inducers thrombin and VEGF are presented as examples of G-protein coupled receptor- and tyrosine kinase receptor-mediated Rho GTPase activation, respectively. These mediators induce complex but markedly different networks of activators, inhibitors and effectors of Rho GTPases, which alter the endothelial barrier function. An interesting feature in this regulation is that Rho GTPases often have both barrier-protecting and barrier-disturbing functions. While Rac1 enforces the endothelial junctions, it becomes part of a barrier-disturbing mechanism as activator of reactive oxygen species generating NADPH oxidase. Similarly RhoA is protective under basal conditions, but becomes involved in barrier dysfunction after activation of ECs by thrombin. The challenge and promise lies in unfolding this complex regulation, as this will provide leads for new therapeutic opportunities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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