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Exp Cell Res. 2014 Jan 1;320(1):108-18. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2013.10.008. Epub 2013 Oct 17.

Ouabain induces endocytosis and degradation of tight junction proteins through ERK1/2-dependent pathways.

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Department of Physiology, Biophysics and Neurosciences, Center for Research and Advanced Studies (Cinvestav), Mexico City 07360, Mexico; Department of Pharmacology, Center for Research and Advanced Studies (Cinvestav), Mexico City 07360, Mexico.


In addition to being a very well-known ion pump, Na(+), K(+)-ATPase is a cell-cell adhesion molecule and the receptor of digitalis, which transduces regulatory signals for cell adhesion, growth, apoptosis, motility and differentiation. Prolonged ouabain (OUA) blockage of activity of Na(+), K(+)-ATPase leads to cell detachment from one another and from substrates. Here, we investigated the cellular mechanisms involved in tight junction (TJ) disassembly upon exposure to toxic levels of OUA (≥300 nM) in epithelial renal canine cells (MDCK). OUA induces a progressive decrease in the transepithelial electrical resistance (TER); inhibitors of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR, PD153035), cSrc (SU6656 and PP2) and ERK1/2 kinases (PD98059) delay this decrease. We have determined that the TER decrease depends upon internalization and degradation of the TJs proteins claudin (CLDN) 2, CLDN-4, occludin (OCLN) and zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1). OUA-induced degradation of proteins is either sensitive (CLDN-4, OCLN and ZO-1) or insensitive (CLDN-2) to ERK1/2 inhibition. In agreement with the protein degradation findings, OUA decreases the cellular content of ZO-1 and CLDN-2 mRNAs but surprisingly, increases the mRNA of CLDN-4 and OCLN. Changes in the mRNA levels are sensitive (CLDN-4, OCLN and ZO-1) or insensitive (CLDN-2) to ERK1/2 inhibition as well. Thus, toxic levels of OUA activate the EGFR-cSrc-ERK1/2 pathway to induce endocytosis, internalization and degradation of TJ proteins. We also observed decreases in the levels of CLDN-2 protein and mRNA, which were independent of the EGFR-cSrc-ERK1/2 pathway.


Claudin; ERK1/2; Na(+), K(+)-ATPase; ZO-1; cSrc

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