Conditional deletion of FAK in mice endothelium disrupts lung vascular barrier function due to destabilization of RhoA and Rac1 activities

Tracy Thennes Schmidt, Mohammad Tauseef, Lili Yue, Marcelo G. Bonini, Joachim Gothert, Tang Long Shen, Jun Lin Guan, Sanda Predescu, Ruxana Sadikot, Dolly Mehta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Loss of lung-fluid homeostasis is the hallmark of acute lung injury (ALI). Association of catenins and actin cytoskeleton with vascular endothelial (VE)-cad-herin is generally considered the main mechanism for stabilizing adherens junctions (AJs), thereby preventing disruption of lung vascular barrier function. The present study identifies endothelial focal adhesion kinase (FAK), a nonreceptor tyrosine kinase that canonically regulates focal adhesion turnover, as a novel AJ-stabilizing mechanism. In wild-type mice, induction of ALI by intraperitoneal administration of lipopolysaccharide or cecal ligation and puncture markedly decreased FAK expression in lungs. Using a mouse model in which FAK was conditionally deleted only in endothelial cells (ECs), we show that loss of EC-FAK mimicked key features of ALI (diffuse lung hemorrhage, increased transvascular albumin influx, edema, and neutrophil accumulation in the lung). EC-FAK deletion disrupted AJs due to impairment of the fine balance between the activities of RhoA and Rac1 GTPases. Deletion of EC-FAK facilitated RhoA's interaction with p115-RhoA guanine exchange factor, leading to activation of RhoA. Activated RhoA antagonized Rac1 activity, destabilizing AJs. Inhibition of Rho kinase, a downstream effector of RhoA, reinstated normal endothelial barrier function in FAK-/- ECs and lung vascular integrity in EC-FAK-/- mice. Our findings demonstrate that EC-FAK plays an essential role in maintaining AJs and thereby lung vascular barrier function by establishing the normal balance between RhoA and Rac1 activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L291-L300
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 8 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute lung injury
  • Adherens junctions
  • Endothelial barrier
  • Focal adhesion kinase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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