The Journal of cell biology

Rac1 functions as a reversible tension modulator to stabilize VE-cadherin trans-interaction.

PMID 25559184


The role of the RhoGTPase Rac1 in stabilizing mature endothelial adherens junctions (AJs) is not well understood. In this paper, using a photoactivatable probe to control Rac1 activity at AJs, we addressed the relationship between Rac1 and the dynamics of vascular endothelial cadherin (VE-cadherin). We demonstrated that Rac1 activation reduced the rate of VE-cadherin dissociation, leading to increased density of VE-cadherin at AJs. This response was coupled to a reduction in actomyosin-dependent tension across VE-cadherin adhesion sites. We observed that inhibiting myosin II directly or through photo-release of the caged Rho kinase inhibitor also reduced the rate of VE-cadherin dissociation. Thus, Rac1 functions by stabilizing VE-cadherin trans-dimers in mature AJs by counteracting the actomyosin tension. The results suggest a new model of VE-cadherin adhesive interaction mediated by Rac1-induced reduction of mechanical tension at AJs, resulting in the stabilization of VE-cadherin adhesions.