Thrombin-induced phosphorylation of the regulatory light chain of myosin II in cultured bovine corneal endothelial cells

M Satpathy, P Gallagher, M Lizotte-Waniewski, S P Srinivas
Experimental Eye Research 2004, 79 (4): 477-86

PURPOSE: Phosphorylation of the regulatory light chain of myosin II (referred to as myosin light chain or MLC) leads to a loss of barrier integrity in cellular monolayers by an increase in the contractility of the cortical actin cytoskeleton. This effect has been examined in corneal endothelial (CE) cells.

METHODS: Experiments were performed using cultured bovine CE cells (BCEC). MLC phosphorylation was induced by a thrombin-mediated activation of the proteinase-activated receptor-1 (PAR-1). Expression of MLC kinase (MLCK), a Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase that phosphorylates MLC at its Ser-19 and Thr-18 residues, was determined by RT-PCR and Western blotting. Expression of PAR-1, RhoA, and Rho kinase-1 (effector of RhoA) was ascertained by RT-PCR. MLC phosphorylation was assessed by urea-glycerol gel electrophoresis followed by immunoblotting. The effects of Rho kinase-1 and PKC were characterized by using their selective inhibitors, Y-27632 and chelerythrine, respectively. Reorganization of the cytoskeleton was evaluated by the phalloidin staining of actin. [Ca2+]i was measured using Fura-2. The barrier integrity was assayed as permeability of BCEC monolayers to horseradish peroxidase (HRP; 44 kDa).

RESULTS: RT-PCR showed expression of MLCK, PAR-1, Rho kinase-1, and RhoA. Western blotting indicated expression of the non-muscle and smooth muscle isoforms of MLCK. Exposure to thrombin induced an increase in [Ca2+]i with the peak unaffected by an absence of extracellular Ca2+. Pre-exposure to thrombin (2 U ml(-1); 2 min) led to mono- and di-phosphorylation of MLC. Under both basal conditions and in the presence of thrombin, MLC phosphorylation was prevented by chelerythrine (10 microm) and Y-27632 (<25 microm). Thrombin led to inter-endothelial gaps secondary to the disruption of the cortical actin cytoskeleton, which under resting conditions was organized as a perijunctional actomyosin ring (PAMR). These responses were blocked by pre-treatment with Y-27632. Thrombin also increased permeability to HRP, which was abolished by pre-treatment with Y-27632.

CONCLUSIONS: Thrombin induces MLC phosphorylation in BCEC. The consequent increase in the contractility of the actin cytoskeleton produces a centripetal force resulting in inter-endothelial gaps and a breakdown of barrier integrity. These responses are PKC- and Rho kinase-dependent. [Ca2+]i increase, as well as sensitivity of the thrombin response to PKC and Rho kinase inhibitors, are consistent with the expression of PAR-1 receptors in BCEC. Thrombin-induced hyperpermeability is a model to investigate barrier dysfunction induced by MLC phosphorylation.

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