Increased vascular endothelial cell (EC) permeability is a result of intercellular gap formation that may be induced by contraction-dependent and contraction-independent mechanisms. This study investigated a role of the adaptor protein vinculin in EC permeability induced by contractile (thrombin) and noncontractile (IL-6) agonists. Although thrombin and IL-6 caused a similar permeability increase in human pulmonary ECs and disrupted the association between vinculin and vascular endothelial-cadherin, they induced different patterns of focal adhesion (FA) arrangement. Thrombin, but not IL-6, caused formation of large, vinculin-positive FAs, phosphorylation of FA proteins, FA kinase and Crk-associated substrate, and increased vinculin-talin association. Thrombin-induced formation of talin-positive FA and intercellular gaps were suppressed in ECs with small interfering RNA-induced vinculin knockdown. Vinculin knockdown and inhibitors of Rho kinase and myosin-II motor activity also attenuated thrombin-induced EC permeability. Importantly, ectopic expression of the vinculin mutant lacking the F-actin-binding domain decreased thrombin-induced Rho pathway activation and EC permeability. In contrast, IL-6-induced EC permeability did not involve RhoA- or myosin-dependent mechanisms but engaged Janus kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription-mediated phosphorylation and internalization of vascular endothelial-cadherin. This process was vinculin independent but Janus kinase/tyrosine kinase Src-dependent. These data suggest that vinculin participates in a contractile-dependent mechanism of permeability by integrating FA with stress fibers, leading to maximal RhoA activation and EC permeability response. Vinculin inhibition does not affect contractile-independent mechanisms of EC barrier failure. This study provides, for the first time, a comparative analysis of two alternative mechanisms of vascular endothelial barrier dysfunction and defines a specific role for vinculin in the contractile type of permeability response.