Interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) is known to potentiate the progression of inflammatory diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease and atherosclerosis. IFN-γ has been found to disrupt the barrier integrity of epithelial and endothelial cell both in vivo and in vitro. However, the mechanisms of IFN-γ underlying increased endothelial cell permeability have not been extensively elucidated. We reported that IFN-γ exhibits a biphasic nature in increasing endothelial permeability. The changes observed in the first phase (4-8 h) involve cell retraction and rounding in addition to condensed peripheral F-actin without a significant change in the F-/G-actin ratio. However, cell elongation, stress fiber formation, and an increased F-/G-actin ratio were noticed in the second phase (16-24 h). Consistent with our finding from the permeability assay, IFN-γ induced the formation of intercellular gaps in both phases. A delayed phase of increased permeability was observed at 12 h, which paralleled the onset of cell elongation, stress fiber formation, and increased F-/G-actin ratio. In addition, IFN-γ stimulated p38 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase phosphorylation over a 24 h period. Inhibition of p38 MAP kinase by SB203580 prevented increases in paracellular permeability, actin rearrangement, and increases in the F-/G-actin ratio caused by IFN-γ. Our results suggest that p38 MAP kinase is activated in response to IFN-γ and causes actin rearrangement and altered cell morphology, which in turn mediates endothelial cell hyperpermeability. The F-/G-actin ratio might be involved in the regulation of actin distribution and cell morphology rather than the increased permeability induced by IFN-γ.
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