VEGF increases BMEC monolayer permeability by affecting occludin expression and tight junction assembly

W Wang, W L Dentler, R T Borchardt
American Journal of Physiology. Heart and Circulatory Physiology 2001, 280 (1): H434-40
Tight junctions between brain microvessel endothelial cells (BMECs) maintain the blood-brain barrier. Barrier breakdown is associated with brain tumors and central nervous system diseases. Tumor cell-secreted vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) increases microvasculature permeability in vivo and is correlated with the induction of clinically severe brain tumor edema. Here we investigated the permeability-increasing effect and tight junction formation of VEGF. By measuring [(14)C]sucrose flux and transendothelial electrical resistance (TER) across BMEC monolayer cultures, we found that VEGF increased sucrose permeability and decreased TER. VEGF also caused a loss of occludin and ZO-1 from the endothelial cell junctions and changed the staining pattern of the cell boundary. Western blot analysis of BMEC lysates revealed that the level of occludin but not of ZO-1 was lowered by VEGF treatment. These results suggest that VEGF increases BMEC monolayer permeability by reducing occludin expression and disrupting ZO-1 and occludin organization, which leads to tight junction disassembly. Occludin and ZO-1 appear to be downstream effectors of the VEGF signaling pathway.

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