A nonapoptotic endothelial barrier-protective role for caspase-3

Karthik Suresh, Kathleen Carino, Laura Johnston, Laura Servinsky, Carolyn E. Machamer, Todd M. Kolb, Hong Lam, Steven M. Dudek, Steven S. An, Madhavi J. Rane, Larissa A. Shimoda, Mahendra Damarla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Noncanonical roles for caspase-3 are emerging in the fields of cancer and developmental biology. However, little is known of nonapoptotic functions of caspase-3 in most cell types. We have recently demonstrated a disassociation between caspase-3 activation and execution of apoptosis with accompanying cytoplasmic caspase-3 sequestration and preserved endothelial barrier function. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that nonapoptotic caspase-3 activation promotes endothelial barrier integrity. Human lung microvascular endothelial cells were exposed to thrombin, a nonapoptotic stimulus, and endothelial barrier function was assessed using electric cell-substrate impedance sensing. Actin cytoskeletal rearrangement and paracellular gap formation were assessed using phalloidin staining. Cell stiffness was evaluated using magnetic twisting cytometry. In addition, cell lysates were harvested for protein analyses. Caspase-3 was inhibited pharmacologically with pan-caspase and a caspase-3-specific inhibitor. Molecular inhibition of caspase-3 was achieved using RNA interference. Cells exposed to thrombin exhibited a cytoplasmic activation of caspase-3 with transient and nonapoptotic decrease in endothelial barrier function as measured by a drop in electrical resistance followed by a rapid recovery. Inhibition of caspases led to a more pronounced and rapid drop in thrombin-induced endothelial barrier function, accompanied by increased endothelial cell stiffness and paracellular gaps. Caspase-3-specific inhibition and caspase-3 knockdown both resulted in more pronounced thrombin-induced endothelial barrier disruption. Taken together, our results suggest cytoplasmic caspase-3 has nonapoptotic functions in human endothelium and can promote endothelial barrier integrity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L1118-L1126
JournalAmerican journal of physiology. Lung cellular and molecular physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019


  • barrier function
  • caspase-3
  • cytoskeleton
  • endothelium
  • human lung microvascular endothelial cells
  • nonapoptotic
  • thrombin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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