Abstract 513: Endothelial Barrier Function is Maintained by the RNA-Binding Protein Quaking
Endothelial barrier function plays a major role in the onset of atherosclerosis. This barrier is maintained largely by adherens junctions. Remarkably, little is known about their regulation at the post–transcriptional level. We found that the RNA-binding protein Quaking (QKI), known for its function in embryonic blood vessel formation, is highly expressed in quiescent endothelial cells (EC) in vivo. In vitro, EC displayed increased levels of QKI when cultured under laminar, atheroprotective flow. Using KLF2 overexpression and a human QKI promoter reporter gene, we found that KLF2 mediates this increase in QKI expression.
Subsequently, we aimed to investigate the role of QKI in EC vascular integrity. Interestingly, the mRNA of VE-cadherin, the prime adhesion protein in EC adherens junctions, contains a conserved QKI-binding site. We identified that the targeted reduction of QKI results in a reduction of VE-cadherin expression and organization at the cell periphery. These studies revealed a direct role for QKI in regulating VE-cadherin mRNA biology, as RNA-immunoprecipitation and luciferase-reporter assays revealed that QKI can directly bind to the VE-cadherin mRNA and induce transcript translation (4 fold ± 0.4; p<0.01), respectively. This effect was perturbed when the QKI-binding site was mutated. These results suggest that QKI acts to enhance barrier function. Overexpression of QKI markedly increased the capacity to form a high resistance endothelial monolayer (1.3 fold ± 0.96), while silencing of QKI markedly impaired EC barrier function (0.65 fold ± 0.13; p<0.05). To validate in vivo, we measured Bradykinin-induced vascular leakage in QKI viable mice (QKIv), which express decreased levels of the QKI protein. Indeed, QKIv mice displayed a 20% (p<0.05) increase in extravascular accumulation of Evans blue-labeled albumin compared to WT littermates.
In conclusion, we show that QKI functions as a critical regulator of VE-cadherin, and the modulation of QKI expression affects endothelial monolayer integrity. These studies provide novel insight into the importance of post-transcriptional regulation on endothelial barrier function, and may have wide ranging implications for the preservation of vascular integrity in disease.
Author Disclosures: R.G. de Bruin: None. M.J.C. Dane: None. D. Lee: None. E.P. van der Veer: None. M.K. Roeten: None. I. Schmidt: None. J. Sundararajah: None. R. Bijkerk: None. H.C. de Boer: None. T.J. Rabelink: None. A. van Zonneveld: None. J.M. van Gils: None.
- © 2014 by American Heart Association, Inc.