The role for hyaluronan (HA) and CD44 in vascular barrier regulation is unknown. We examined high and low molecular weight HA (HMW-HA, ∼1,000 kDa; LMW-HA, ∼2.5 kDa) effects on human transendothelial monolayer electrical resistance (TER). HMW-HA increased TER, whereas LMW-HA induced biphasic TER changes ultimately resulting in EC barrier disruption.HMW-HAinduced the association of the CD44s isoform with, and AKT-mediated phosphorylation of, the barrier-promoting sphingosine 1-phosphate receptor (S1P1) within caveolin-enriched lipid raft microdomains, whereas LMW-HA induced brief CD44s association with S1P1 followed by sustained association of the CD44v10 isoform with, and Src and ROCK 1/2-mediated phosphorylation of, the barrier-disrupting S1P3 receptor. HA-induced EC cytoskeletal reorganization and TER alterations were abolished by either disruption of lipid raft formation, CD44 blocking antibody or siRNA-mediated reductions in expression of CD44 isoforms. Silencing S1P1, AKT1, or Rac1 blocked the barrier enhancing effects of HA whereas silencing S1P3, Src, ROCK1/2, or RhoA blocked the barrier disruption induced by LMW-HA. In summary, HA regulates EC barrier function through novel differential CD44 isoform interaction with S1P receptors, S1P receptor transactivation, and RhoA/Rac1 signaling to the EC cytoskeleton.
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