Author(s): Simionescu M, Gafencu A, Antohe F
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Abstract The modern exploration of endothelial cell biology is a largely interdisciplinary exercise. Cell biological, physiological, and more recently molecular biology approaches were used to study the pathways and the organelles involved in transcytosis of macromolecules in endothelial cell (EC). Here we discuss mainly the cell biological findings that revealed that EC have the attributes to fulfill the transport function. They are polarized cells, heterogeneous, and, thus, structurally and functionally adapted to the vascular bed in which they reside. The structural heterogeneity involves the number and distribution of plasmalemmal vesicles (caveolae), their generated channels, and the organization of intercellular junctions. The closely related functional heterogeneity comprises the degree of permeability for plasma molecules that vary as a function of organ. The EC are endowed with the cellular machinery to perform (1) endocytosis, that is to take up plasma proteins and the molecules they carry to be used for themselves (cholesterol-carrying low density lipoproteins, fatty acid carrying albumin, iron carrying transferrin, etc.), and (2) transcytosis, which implies to transport plasma proteins to the subjacent cells and tissues. The possible pathways for transport of molecules are transcellular, via caveolae and channels, and paracellular via intercellular junctions. Most of the results obtained, so far, indicate that transcytosis of albumin, low-density lipoproteins, metaloproteases, and insulin, is performed by cargo-vesicles and their generated channels. The paracellular pathway can be used for water and ions; in postcapillary venules, at the level of which approximately 30\% of junctions are open to a space of 6 nm, small molecules may take this route. Recent data obtained by molecular biology techniques revealed that caveolae are endowed with the molecular machinery for fusion/fission, docking, and movement across cells. Moreover, the various and numerous molecules that have been detected in the caveolae membrane and the different functions assumed by this differentiated microdomain strengthen the postulate that there are at least two or more types of vesicles molecularly tailored for the local physiological requirements. Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
This article was published in Microsc Res Tech
and referenced in Journal of Genetic Syndromes & Gene Therapy