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Life-threatening diseases of the cardiovascular system, like atherosclerosis, are exacerbated by unwanted inflammation within the structures of large blood vessels. This inflammation involves increased permeability of the vascular endothelial cells (VECs) that form the lining of blood vessels, leading to exaggerated extravasation of blood components and accumulation of fluid in the extravascular space. This results in tissue dysfunction and increased secretion of chemokines that attract leukocytes and monocytes to the inflamed endothelium. Cyclic AMP is synthesized in VECs in response to endogenous Gs-coupled receptors and is known to limit cytokine action and reduce endothelial hyperpermeability induced by multiple pro-inflammatory stimuli. The mechanisms underlying this anti-inflammatory action of cyclic AMP are now being elucidated and it is becoming clear that the cyclic AMP sensor, exchange protein activated by cyclic AMP (EPAC1), appears to play a key role in suppressing unwanted inflammation. EPAC1 mediates at least three anti-inflammatory pathways in VECs by down-regulating inflammatory signalling through the induction of the suppressors of cytokine signalling 3 (SOCS-3) gene, limiting integrin-dependent vascular permeability and enhancing endothelial barrier function through the stabilization of VE-cadherin junctions. Given that manipulation of cellular cyclic AMP levels currently forms the basis of many effective pharmaceuticals and that EPAC1 is involved in multiple anti-inflammatory protective processes in VECs, does this make EPAC1 an attractive target for the development of activators capable of eliciting a coordinated programme of 'protection' against the development of endothelial dysfunction? Here we discuss whether EPAC1 represents an attractive therapeutic target for limiting endothelial dysfunction associated with cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis. LINKED ARTICLES This article is part of a themed section on Novel cAMP Signalling Paradigms. To view the other articles in this section visit

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Pharmacol

Publication Date





434 - 446


Animals, Cardiovascular Diseases, Cyclic AMP, Endothelial Cells, Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors, Humans, Inflammation