Endothelial barrier integrity is essential for vascular homeostasis and increased vascular permeability and has been implicated in many pathological processes, including diabetic retinopathy. Here, we investigated the effect of Rk1, a ginsenoside extracted from sun ginseng, on regulation of endothelial barrier function. In human retinal endothelial cells, Rk1 strongly inhibited permeability induced by VEGF, advanced glycation end-product, thrombin, or histamine. Furthermore, Rk1 significantly reduced the vessel leakiness of retina in a diabetic mouse model. This anti-permeability activity of Rk1 is correlated with enhanced stability and positioning of tight junction proteins at the boundary between cells. Signaling experiments revealed that Rk1 induces phosphorylation of myosin light chain and cortactin, which are critical regulators for the formation of the cortical actin ring structure and endothelial barrier. These findings raise the possibility that ginsenoside Rk1 could be exploited as a novel prototype compound for the prevention of human diseases that are characterized by vascular leakage.
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