mAbs were raised in mice against cultured human endothelial cells (EC) and screened by indirect immunofluorescence for their ability to stain intercellular contacts. One mAb denoted 7B4 was identified which, out of many cultured cell types, specifically decorated cultured human EC. The antigen recognized by mAb 7B4 is bound at the appositional surfaces of cultured EC only as they become confluent and is stably expressed at intercellular boundaries of confluent monolayers. EC recognition specificity was maintained when the antibody was assayed by immuno-histochemistry in tissue sections of many normal and malignant tissues and in blood vessels of different size and type. The antigen recognized by 7B4 was enriched at EC intercellular boundaries similarly in vitro and in situ. In vitro, addition of mAb 7B4 to confluent EC increased permeation of macromolecules across monolayers even without any obvious changes of cell morphology. In addition, when EC permeability was increased by agents such as thrombin, elastase, and TNF/gamma IFN, its distribution pattern at intercellular contact rims was severely altered. mAb 7B4 immunoprecipitated a major protein of 140 kD from metabolically and surface-labeled cultured EC extracts which appeared to be an integral membrane glycoprotein. On the basis of its distribution in cultured cells and in tissues in situ, 7B4 antigen is distinct from other described EC proteins enriched at intercellular contacts. NH2-terminal sequencing of the antigen, immunopurified from human placenta, and sequencing of peptides from tryptic peptide maps revealed identity to the cDNA deduced sequence of a recently identified new member of the cadherin family (Suzuki, S., K. Sano, and H. Tanihara. 1991. Cell Regul. 2:261-270.) These data indicate that 7B4 antigen is an endothelial-specific cadherin that plays a role in the organization of lateral endothelial junctions and in the control of permeability properties of vascular endothelium.

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