Thrombospondin-1 (TSP1) is a multidomain protein that contains epidermal growth factor (EGF)-like repeats that indirectly activate the EGF receptor (EGFR) and selected downstream signaling pathways. In these studies, we show that TSP1 opens the paracellular pathway in human lung microvascular endothelial cells (HMVEC-Ls) in a dose-, time-, and protein tyrosine kinase (PTK)-dependent manner. TSP1 increased tyrosine phosphorylation of proteins enriched to intercellular boundaries including the zonula adherens (ZA) proteins, vascular endothelial-cadherin, ?-catenin, and p120 catenin. In HMVEC-Ls, EGFR and ErbB2 are expressed at low levels, and both heterodimerize and tyrosine autophosphorylate in response to TSP1. Prior EGFR-selective PTK inhibition with AG1478 or ErbB2-selective PTK inhibition with AG825 protected against TSP1-induced tyrosine phosphorylation of ZA proteins and barrier disruption. Preincubation of HMVEC-Ls with an EGFR ectodomain-blocking antibody also prevented TSP1-induced opening of the paracellular pathway. Therefore, in HMVEC-Ls, TSP1 increases tyrosine phosphorylation of ZA proteins and opens the paracellular pathway, in part, through EGFR/ErbB2 activation. Surprisingly, recombinant TSP1 EGF-like repeats 1-3 and the high-affinity EGFR ligands, EGF, TGF-a, and amphiregulin, each failed to increase paracellular permeability. However, HMVEC-Ls in which EGFR was overexpressed became responsive to the EGF-like repeats of TSP1 as well as to EGF. These studies indicate that TSP1 disrupts the endothelial barrier through EGFR/ErbB2 activation although additional signals are necessary in cells with low receptor expression.