Bone Morphogenetic Protein-Modulator BMPER Regulates Endothelial Barrier Function

Thomas Helbing, Gwendoline Wiltgen, Alexandra Hornstein, Elena Z Brauers, Linus Arnold, Adrian Bauer, Jennifer S Esser, Philipp Diehl, Sebastian Grundmann, Katrin Fink, Cam Patterson, Christoph Bode, Martin Moser
Inflammation 2017, 40 (2): 442-453
The endothelium serves as a selective barrier and controls the exchange of nutrients, hormones, and leukocytes between blood and tissues. Molecular mechanisms contributing to the pathogenesis of endothelial barrier dysfunction remain incompletely understood. Accumulating evidence implicates bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)-modulator BMPER as a key regulator in endothelial biology. Herein, we analyze the impact of BMPER in the control of endothelial barrier function. To assess the role of BMPER in vascular barrier function in mice, we measured the leakage of Evans blue dye from blood into interstitial lung tissue. BMPER(+/-) mice exhibited a significantly higher degree of vascular leak compared with wild-type siblings. In accordance with our in vivo observation, siRNA-based BMPER knockdown in human umbilical endothelial cells increased endothelial permeability measured by FITC-dextran passage in transwell assays. Mechanistically, BMPER knockdown reduced the expression of VE-cadherin, a pivotal component of endothelial adherens junctions. Conversely, recombinant human BMPER protein upregulated VE-cadherin protein levels and improved endothelial barrier function in transwell assays. The effects of BMPER knockdown on VE-cadherin expression and endothelial permeability were induced by enhanced BMP activity. Supporting this notion, activation of BMP4-Smad-Id1 signaling reduced VE-cadherin levels and impaired endothelial barrier function in vitro. In vivo, Evans blue dye accumulation was higher in the lungs of BMP4-treated C57BL/6 mice compared to controls indicating that BMP4 increased vascular permeability. High levels of BMPER antagonized BMP4-Smad5-Id1 signaling and prevented BMP4-induced downregulation of VE-cadherin and endothelial leakage, suggesting that BMPER exerts anti-BMP effects and restores endothelial barrier function. Taken together, this data demonstrates that BMPER-modulated BMP pathway activity regulates VE-cadherin expression and vascular barrier function.

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