* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received July 18, 2001; Revision received October 1, 2001
Confluent endothelium serves as a selective barrier between the vascular space of blood vessels and underlying tissues. Compromised barrier function of the endothelium in response to inflammation mediators, such as thrombin, is accompanied by reversible cell rounding and interendothelial gap formation. Endothelial barrier integrity substantially depends on the cytoskeleton, which ensures actin stress fiber formation and via actomyosin-driven contraction regulates cell shape and adhesion. Recent studies have shown the sequence of events that mediate signal transduction in endothelial cells. Binding of thrombin with its receptor initiates activation of heterotrimeric G-proteins, which, in turn, entails a decrease in cAMP level in the cell, increase in intracellular Ca2+ and diacylglycerol concentration, and activation of the small G-protein Rho. Phosphorylation of myosin light chains as a result of activation of myosin light chain kinase and inactivation of myosin phosphatases stimulates stress fiber formation and triggers actomyosin contraction. In addition, thrombin-induced rearrangement in the endothelial cytoskeleton is regulated by Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase, protein kinase C, and tyrosine protein kinases. This review focuses on presently known biochemical mechanisms of cell response to thrombin and their role in endothelial barrier dysfunction.
KEY WORDS: thrombin, endothelium, barrier function