Differential activation of receptors and signal pathways upon stimulation by different doses of sphingosine-1-phosphate in endothelial cells

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Sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) is a bioactive sphingolipid in plasma, and its plasma concentration can be adjusted through a complex metabolic process. The alterations in S1P levels and the activation of receptors collaboratively regulate distinct biological effects. This study was performed to investigate comparatively the effect of different concentrations of S1P on endothelial barrier function and to explore the roles of S1P receptors (S1PRs), Rho GTPases and calcium in S1P-induced endothelial responses. Endothelial barrier function was studied using transendothelial electric resistance and a resistance meter in human umbilical vein endothelial cells. Specific agonists or antagonists were applied to control the activation of S1P receptors and the release of calcium from different cellular compartments. The results indicated that at physiological concentrations, S1P preserved endothelial barrier function by binding with S1PR1. The activation of S1PR1 triggered the release of intracellular Ca2+ from the endoplasmic reticulum through the PI–phospholipase C and inositol trisphosphate pathways. Consequently, the Rho GTPase Rac1 was activated, strengthening the assembly of tight junction proteins and F-actin. However, excessive S1P induced endothelial barrier dysfunction by activating S1PR2 followed by the RhoA/RhoA kinase pathway, causing the disorganization of F-actin and the disassembly of the tight junction protein ZO-1. An influx of extracellular Ca2+ was involved in this process. These data suggest that physiological and excessive amounts of S1P induce different responses in human umbilical vein endothelial cells; the activation of the 1PR1–PLC–IP3R–Ca2+–Rac1 pathway governs the low-dose S1P-enhanced endothelial barrier integrity, and the activation of S1PR2–calcium influx–RhoA/ROCK dominates the high-dose S1P-induced endothelial monolayer hyperpermeability response.

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