Acute lung injury (ALI) is a clinical manifestation of respiratory failure, caused by lung inflammation and the disruption of the alveolar-capillary barrier. Preservation of the physical integrity of the alveolar epithelial monolayer is of critical importance to prevent alveolar edema. Barrier integrity depends largely on the balance between physical forces on cell-cell and cell-matrix contacts, and this balance might be affected by alterations in the coagulation cascade in patients with ALI. We aimed to study the effects of activated protein C (APC) on mechanical tension and barrier integrity in human alveolar epithelial cells (A549) exposed to thrombin. Cells were pretreated for 3 h with APC (50 μg/ml) or vehicle (control). Subsequently, thrombin (50 nM) or medium was added to the cell culture. APC significantly reduced thrombin-induced cell monolayer permeability, cell stiffening, and cell contraction, measured by electrical impedance, optical magnetic twisting cytometry, and traction microscopy, respectively, suggesting a barrier-protective response. The dynamics of the barrier integrity was also assessed by western blotting and immunofluorescence analysis of the tight junction ZO-1. Thrombin resulted in more elongated ZO-1 aggregates at cell-cell interface areas and induced an increase in ZO-1 membrane protein content. APC attenuated the length of these ZO-1 aggregates and reduced the ZO-1 membrane protein levels induced by thrombin. In conclusion, pretreatment with APC reduced the disruption of barrier integrity induced by thrombin, thus contributing to alveolar epithelial barrier protection. © 2013 Puig et al.