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J Physiol. 2017 Aug 1;595(15):5143-5158. doi: 10.1113/JP274189. Epub 2017 Jun 30.

Impaired activity of adherens junctions contributes to endothelial dilator dysfunction in ageing rat arteries.

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Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.



Ageing-induced endothelial dysfunction contributes to organ dysfunction and progression of cardiovascular disease. VE-cadherin clustering at adherens junctions promotes protective endothelial functions, including endothelium-dependent dilatation. Ageing increased internalization and degradation of VE-cadherin, resulting in impaired activity of adherens junctions. Inhibition of VE-cadherin clustering at adherens junctions (function-blocking antibody; FBA) reduced endothelial dilatation in young arteries but did not affect the already impaired dilatation in old arteries. After junctional disruption with the FBA, dilatation was similar in young and old arteries. Src tyrosine kinase activity and tyrosine phosphorylation of VE-cadherin were increased in old arteries. Src inhibition increased VE-cadherin at adherens junctions and increased endothelial dilatation in old, but not young, arteries. Src inhibition did not increase dilatation in old arteries treated with the VE-cadherin FBA. Ageing impairs the activity of adherens junctions, which contributes to endothelial dilator dysfunction. Restoring the activity of adherens junctions could be of therapeutic benefit in vascular ageing.


Endothelial dilator dysfunction contributes to pathological vascular ageing. Experiments assessed whether altered activity of endothelial adherens junctions (AJs) might contribute to this dysfunction. Aortas and tail arteries were isolated from young (3-4 months) and old (22-24 months) F344 rats. VE-cadherin immunofluorescent staining at endothelial AJs and AJ width were reduced in old compared to young arteries. A 140 kDa VE-cadherin species was present on the cell surface and in TTX-insoluble fractions, consistent with junctional localization. Levels of the 140 kDa VE-cadherin were decreased, whereas levels of a TTX-soluble 115 kDa VE-cadherin species were increased in old compared to young arteries. Acetylcholine caused endothelium-dependent dilatation that was decreased in old compared to young arteries. Disruption of VE-cadherin clustering at AJs (function-blocking antibody, FBA) inhibited dilatation to acetylcholine in young, but not old, arteries. After the FBA, there was no longer any difference in dilatation between old and young arteries. Src activity and tyrosine phosphorylation of VE-cadherin were increased in old compared to young arteries. In old arteries, Src inhibition (saracatinib) increased: (i) 140 kDa VE-cadherin in the TTX-insoluble fraction, (ii) VE-cadherin intensity at AJs, (iii) AJ width, and (iv) acetylcholine dilatation. In old arteries treated with the FBA, saracatinib no longer increased acetylcholine dilatation. Saracatinib did not affect dilatation in young arteries. Therefore, ageing impairs AJ activity, which appears to reflect Src-induced phosphorylation, internalization and degradation of VE-cadherin. Moreover, impaired AJ activity can account for the endothelial dilator dysfunction in old arteries. Restoring endothelial AJ activity may be a novel therapeutic approach to vascular ageing.


NO; VE-cadherin; adherens junctions; aging; endothelium

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