The recruitment of leukocytes from the circulation into tissues requires leukocyte migration through the vascular endothelium. The mechanisms by which leukocytes attach and firmly adhere to the endothelial cell surface have been studied in detail. However, much less is known about the last step in this process, the diapedesis of leukocytes through the vascular endothelium. This minireview focuses on the interactions between leukocyte and endothelial cell adhesion molecules that are important during leukocyte extravasation. In the past few years a series of endothelial cell surface and adhesion molecules have been identified that are located at endothelial cell contacts and found to participate in leukocyte diapedesis. These junctional cell adhesion molecules are believed to have an active role in controlling the opening and closure of endothelial cell contacts to allow the passage of leukocytes between adjacent endothelial cells. Alternatively, leukocytes can cross the endothelium at nonjunctional locations, with leukocytes migrating through a single endothelial cell. Further work is clearly needed to understand, in greater detail, the molecular mechanisms that allow leukocytes to cross the endothelium via either the paracellular or the transcellular pathway.
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