Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, decreases paracellular endothelial permeability in a process that requires rearrangement of the actin cytoskeleton. To define the proximal mechanism of this effect, we tested whether it might involve enhanced generation and/or sparing of nitric oxide (NO) by the vitamin. EA.hy926 endothelial cells cultured on semi-porous filter supports showed decreased endothelial barrier permeability to radiolabeled inulin in response to exogenous NO provided by the NO donor spermine NONOATE, as well as to activation of the downstream NO pathway by 8-bromo-cyclic GMP, a cell-penetrant cyclic GMP analog. Inhibition of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) with N(ω)-nitro-l-arginine methyl ester increased endothelial permeability, indicating a role constitutive NO generation by eNOS in maintaining the permeability barrier. Inhibition of guanylate cyclase by 1H-[1,2,4]oxadiazolo[4,3-a]quinoxalin-1-one also increased endothelial permeability and blocked barrier tightening by spermine NONOATE. Loading cells with what are likely physiologic concentrations of ascorbate decreased endothelial permeability. This effect was blocked by inhibition of either eNOS or guanylate cyclase, suggesting that it involved generation of NO by eNOS and subsequent NO-dependent activation of guanylate cyclase. These results show that endothelial permeability barrier function depends on constitutive generation of NO and that ascorbate-dependent tightening of this barrier involves maintaining NO through the eNOS/guanylate cyclase pathway.
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