Extracellular adenosine-induced Rac1 activation in pulmonary endothelium: Molecular mechanisms and barrier-protective role

Anita Kovacs-Kasa, Kyung Mi Kim, Mary Cherian-Shaw, Stephen M. Black, David J Fulton, Alexander Dmitriyevich Verin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


We have previously shown that Gs-coupled adenosine receptors (A2a) are primarily involved in adenosine-induced human pulmonary artery endothelial cell (HPAEC) barrier enhancement. However, the downstream events that mediate the strengthening of the endothelial cell (EC) barrier via adenosine signaling are largely unknown. In the current study, we tested the overall hypothesis that adenosine-induced Rac1 activation and EC barrier enhancement is mediated by Gs-dependent stimulation of cAMP-dependent Epac1-mediated signaling cascades. Adenoviral transduction of HPAEC with constitutively-active (C/A) Rac1 (V12Rac1) significantly increases transendothelial electrical resistance (TER) reflecting an enhancement of the EC barrier. Conversely, expression of an inactive Rac1 mutant (N17Rac1) decreases TER reflecting a compromised EC barrier. The adenosine-induced increase in TER was accompanied by activation of Rac1, decrease in contractility (MLC dephosphorylation), but not Rho inhibition. Conversely, inhibition of Rac1 activity attenuates adenosine-induced increase in TER. We next examined the role of cAMP-activated Epac1 and its putative downstream targets Rac1, Vav2, Rap1, and Tiam1. Depletion of Epac1 attenuated the adenosine-induced Rac1 activation and the increase in TER. Furthermore, silencing of Rac1 specific guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs), Vav2 and Rap1a expression significantly attenuated adenosine-induced increases in TER and activation of Rac1. Depletion of Rap1b only modestly impacted adenosine-induced increases in TER and Tiam1 depletion had no effect on adenosine-induced Rac1 activation and TER. Together these data strongly suggest that Rac1 activity is required for adenosine-induced EC barrier enhancement and that the activation of Rac1 and ability to strengthen the EC barrier depends, at least in part, on cAMP-dependent Epac1/Vav2/Rap1-mediated signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5736-5746
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cellular Physiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Rac1
  • adenosine
  • barrier protection
  • pulmonary endothelium
  • small GTPase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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