The endothelial adherens junction is formed by complexes of transmembrane adhesive proteins, of which beta-catenin is known to connect the junctional protein vascular endothelial (VE)-cadherin to the cytoskeleton and to play a signaling role in the regulation of junction-cytoskeleton interaction. In this study, we investigated the effect of neutrophil activation on endothelial monolayer integrity and on beta-catenin and VE-cadherin modification. Treatment of cultured bovine coronary endothelial monolayers with C5a-activated neutrophils resulted in an increase in permeability as measured by albumin clearance across the monolayer. Furthermore, large scale intercellular gap formation was observed in coincidence with the hyperpermeability response. Immunofluorescence analysis showed that beta-catenin and VE-cadherin staining changed from a uniform distribution along the membrane of control cells to a diffuse pattern for both proteins and finger-like projections for beta-catenin in neutrophil-exposed monolayers. Correlatively, there was an increase in actin stress fiber formation in treated cells. Finally, beta-catenin and VE-cadherin from neutrophil-treated endothelial cells showed a significant increase in tyrosine phosphorylation. Our results are the first to link neutrophil-mediated changes in adherens junctions with intercellular gap formation and hyperpermeability in microvascular endothelial cells. These data suggest that neutrophils may regulate endothelial barrier function through a process conferring conformational changes to beta-catenin and VE-cadherin.