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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2012 May 15;302(10):L1067-77. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00190.2011. Epub 2012 Mar 2.

Terminal sialic acids are an important determinant of pulmonary endothelial barrier integrity.

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Center for Lung Biology, Department of Biochemistry, University of South Alabama, 5851 USA Dr. N., Mobile, AL 36688, USA.


The surface of vascular endothelium bears a glycocalyx comprised, in part, of a complex mixture of oligosaccharide chains attached to cell-surface proteins and membrane lipids. Importantly, understanding of the structure and function of the endothelial glycocalyx is poorly understood. Preliminary studies have demonstrated structural differences in the glycocalyx of pulmonary artery endothelial cells compared with pulmonary microvascular endothelial cells. Herein we begin to probe in more detail structural and functional attributes of endothelial cell-surface carbohydrates. In this study we focus on the expression and function of sialic acids in pulmonary endothelium. We observed that, although pulmonary microvascular endothelial cells express similar amounts of total sialic acids as pulmonary artery endothelial cells, the nature of the sialic acid linkages differs between the two cell types such that pulmonary artery endothelial cells express both α(2,3)- and α(2,6)-linked sialic acids on the surface (i.e., surficially), whereas microvascular endothelial cells principally express α(2,3)-linked sialic acids. To determine whether sialic acids play a role in endothelial barrier function, cells were treated with neuraminidases to hydrolyze sialic acid moieties. Disruption of cell-cell and cell-matrix adhesions was observed following neuraminidase treatment, suggesting that terminal sialic acids promote endothelial barrier integrity. When we measured transendothelial resistance, differential responses of pulmonary artery and microvascular endothelial cells to neuraminidase from Clostridium perfringens suggest that the molecular architecture of the sialic acid glycomes differs between these two cell types. Collectively our observations reveal critical structural and functional differences of terminally linked sialic acids on the pulmonary endothelium.

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