Cytoskeletal dynamics and lung fluid balance

Stephen M Vogel, Asrar B Malik
Comprehensive Physiology 2012, 2 (1): 449-78
This article examines the role of the endothelial cytoskeleton in the lung's ability to restrict fluid and protein to vascular space at normal vascular pressures and thereby to protect lung alveoli from lethal flooding. The barrier properties of microvascular endothelium are dependent on endothelial cell contact with other vessel-wall lining cells and with the underlying extracellular matrix (ECM). Focal adhesion complexes are essential for attachment of endothelium to ECM. In quiescent endothelial cells, the thick cortical actin rim helps determine cell shape and stabilize endothelial adherens junctions and focal adhesions through protein bridges to actin cytoskeleton. Permeability-increasing agonists signal activation of "small GTPases" of the Rho family to reorganize the actin cytoskeleton, leading to endothelial cell shape change, disassembly of cortical actin rim, and redistribution of actin into cytoplasmic stress fibers. In association with calcium- and Src-regulated myosin light chain kinase (MLCK), stress fibers become actinomyosin-mediated contractile units. Permeability-increasing agonists stimulate calcium entry and induce tyrosine phosphorylation of VE-cadherin (vascular endothelial cadherin) and β-catenins to weaken or pull apart endothelial adherens junctions. Some permeability agonists cause latent activation of the small GTPases, Cdc42 and Rac1, which facilitate endothelial barrier recovery and eliminate interendothelial gaps. Under the influence of Cdc42 and Rac1, filopodia and lamellipodia are generated by rearrangements of actin cytoskeleton. These motile evaginations extend endothelial cell borders across interendothelial gaps, and may initiate reannealing of endothelial junctions. Endogenous barrier protective substances, such as sphingosine-1-phosphate, play an important role in maintaining a restrictive endothelial barrier and counteracting the effects of permeability-increasing agonists.

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