Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin
Online ISSN : 1347-5215
Print ISSN : 0918-6158
ISSN-L : 0918-6158
Current Topics: Reviews
Rap1 Small GTPase Regulates Vascular Endothelial-Cadherin-Mediated Endothelial Cell–Cell Junctions and Vascular Permeability
Kiyotake YamamotoYuki TakagiKoji AndoShigetomo Fukuhara
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2021 Volume 44 Issue 10 Pages 1371-1379


The vascular permeability of the endothelium is finely controlled by vascular endothelial (VE)-cadherin-mediated endothelial cell–cell junctions. In the majority of normal adult tissues, endothelial cells in blood vessels maintain vascular permeability at a relatively low level, while in response to inflammation, they limit vascular barrier function to induce plasma leakage and extravasation of immune cells as a defense mechanism. Thus, the dynamic but also simultaneously tight regulation of vascular permeability by endothelial cells is responsible for maintaining homeostasis and, as such, impairments of its underlying mechanisms result in hyperpermeability, leading to the development and progression of various diseases including coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a newly emerging infectious disease. Recently, increasing numbers of studies have been unveiling the important role of Rap1, a small guanosine 5′-triphosphatase (GTPase) belonging to the Ras superfamily, in the regulation of vascular permeability. Rap1 enhances VE-cadherin-mediated endothelial cell–cell junctions to potentiate vascular barrier functions via dynamic reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton. Importantly, Rap1 signaling activation reportedly improves vascular barrier function in animal models of various diseases associated with vascular hyperpermeability, suggesting that Rap1 might be an ideal target for drugs intended to prevent vascular barrier dysfunction. Here, we describe recent progress in understanding the mechanisms by which Rap1 potentiates VE-cadherin-mediated endothelial cell–cell adhesions and vascular barrier function. We also discuss how alterations in Rap1 signaling are related to vascular barrier dysfunction in diseases such as acute pulmonary injury and malignancies. In addition, we examine the possibility of Rap1 signaling as a target of drugs for treating diseases associated with vascular hyperpermeability.

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© 2021 The Pharmaceutical Society of Japan
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