Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 76, Issue 7, pp 1299–1317 | Cite as

How many cadherins do human endothelial cells express?

  • Natalia Colás-Algora
  • Jaime MillánEmail author


The vasculature is the paradigm of a compartment generated by parallel cellular barriers that aims to transport oxygen, nutrients and immune cells in complex organisms. Vascular barrier dysfunction leads to fatal acute and chronic inflammatory diseases. The endothelial barrier lines the inner side of vessels and is the main regulator of vascular permeability. Cadherins comprise a superfamily of 114 calcium-dependent adhesion proteins that contain conserved cadherin motifs and form cell–cell junctions in metazoans. In mature human endothelial cells, only VE (vascular endothelial)-cadherin and N (neural)-cadherin have been investigated in detail. Although both cadherins are essential for regulating endothelial permeability, no comprehensive expression studies to identify which other family members could play a relevant role in endothelial cells has so far been performed. Here, we have reviewed gene and protein expression databases to analyze cadherin expression in mature human endothelium and found that at least 24 cadherin superfamily members are significantly expressed. Based on data obtained from other cell types, organisms and experimental models, we discuss their potential functions, many of them unrelated to the formation of endothelial cell–cell junctions. The expression of this new set of endothelial cadherins highlights the important but still poorly defined roles of planar cell polarity, the Hippo pathway and mitochondria metabolism in human vascular homeostasis.


Cadherin Gene expression Endothelium Vascular permeability Barrier function Cell adhesion molecule 



Amyloid precursor protein


Cerebral cavernous malformation


Cadherin-related proteins




Dachsous cadherin related 1


Epithelial cadherin


Epithelial–mesenchymal transition


Endothelial–mesenchymal transition


Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor




Hepatitis C virus


Human umbilical vein endothelial cells


Kaposi ́s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus


Mucin and cadherin-like


Neural cadherin






Protocadherin gamma (cluster)


Planar cell polarity


Primary human endoneurial endothelial cells


Rearranged during transfection


Small and mothers against decapentaplegic 3

TGF- β

Transforming growth factor-β


Vascular endothelial cadherin


Wingless-related integration site


Yes-associated protein


Transcriptional coactivator with PDZ-binding motif

7D cadherin

7-Domain cadherin



We thank Cristina Cacho Navas and Dr. Nahuel Ramella for the critical reading of the manuscript and the Genomics Facility at the CBMSO for its helpful advice. We also thank Dr. Phil Mason, who provided English language support.


The work was supported by Grants SAF2017-88187-R from MINECO, B2017/BMD-3817 from Comunidad de Madrid and Endocornea 2, collaborative agreement with CSIC, funded by Instituto de Investigación Fundación Jiménez Díaz. N.C.A. is a recipient of an FPU fellowship from MECD.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that no conflict of interest exists.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones CientíficasUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain

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