Plakoglobin, also known as γ-catenin, is a close homolog of β-catenin and interacts with shared protein partners. Functions of β-catenin in cell adhesion are well-documented in terms of maintaining endothelial barrier function by interacting with vascular endothelial (VE)-cadherin. Plakoglobin also interacts with VE-cadherin, but its function in cell adhesion is not well understood. Here, we investigated plakoglobin function in vascular endothelial cell (ECs)–cell junction integrity. Knock-down of plakoglobin expression in ECs did not prevent cell proliferation or cell migration, but induced destabilization of the membrane distribution of VE-cadherin and resulted in increased permeability. Plakoglobin contributes to VE-cadherin-dependent adhesion in the steady state, but on stimulation with vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), it is essential for inducing sufficient VE-cadherin phosphorylation on VEGF signaling, thereby destabilizing cell–cell junctions. Furthermore, knock-down of plakoglobin expression increased vascular endothelial protein tyrosine phosphatase activity, an endothelial-specific membrane protein associating with VE-cadherin. These results indicate that plakoglobin plays multiple roles in regulation of cell–cell adhesion in a context dependent manner.

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