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Endothelium. 2005 Jan-Apr;12(1-2):21-39.

Effects of pulsatile shear stress on signaling mechanisms controlling nitric oxide production, endothelial nitric oxide synthase phosphorylation, and expression in ovine fetoplacental artery endothelial cells.

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  • 1Perinatal Research Laboratories, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53715, USA.


During gestation, placental blood flow, endothelial nitric oxide (NO) production, and endothelial cell nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) expression are elevated dramatically. Shear stress can induce flow-mediated vasodilation, endothelial NO production, and eNOS expression. Both the activity and expression of eNOS are closely regulated because it is the rate-limiting enzyme essential for NO synthesis. The authors adapted CELLMAX artificial capillary modules to study the effects of pulsatile flow/shear stress on ovine fetoplacental artery endothelial (OFPAE) cell NO production, eNOS expression, and eNOS phosphorylation. This model allows for the adaptation of endothelial cells to low physiological flow environments and thus prolonged shear stresses. The cells were grown to confluence at 3 dynes/cm2, then were exposed to 10, 15, or 25 dynes/cm2 for up to 24 h and NO production, eNOS mRNA, and eNOS protein expression were elevated by shear stress in a graded fashion (p < .05). Production of NO by OFPAE cells exposed to pulsatile shear stress was de novo; i.e., inhibited by L-NMMA (N(G)-monomethyl-L-arginine) and reversed by excess NOS substrate L-arginine. Rises in NO production at 25 dynes/cm2 (8-fold) exceeded (p < .05) that seen for eNOS protein (3.6-fold) or eNOS mRNA (1.5-fold). Acute rises in NO production with shear stress occurred by eNOS activation, whereas prolonged NO rises were via elevations in both eNOS expression and enzyme activation. The authors therefore used Western analysis to investigate the signaling mechanisms underlying pulsatile shear stress-induced increases in eNOS phosphorylation and protein expression by "flow-adapted" OFPAE cells. Increasing shear stress from 3 to 15 dynes/cm2 very rapidly increased eNOS Ser1177, ERK1/2 (extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 and 2) and Akt, but not p38 MAPK (p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase) phosphorylation by Western analysis. Phosphorylation of eNOS Ser1177 under shear stress was elevated by 20 min, a response that was blocked by PI-3K (phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase) inhibitors wortmannin and LY294002, but not the MEK (MAPK kinase) inhibitor UO126. Basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) enhanced eNOS protein levels in static culture via a MEK-mediated mechanism, but it could not further augment the elevated eNOS protein levels induced by 15 dynes/cm2 shear stress. Blocking of either signaling pathways or p38 MAPK did not change the shear stress-induced increase in eNOS protein levels. Therefore, shear stress induced rapid eNOS phosphorylation on Ser1177 in OFPAE cells through a PI-3K-dependent pathway. The bFGF-induced rise in eNOS protein levels in static culture was much less than those observed under flow and was blocked by inhibiting MEK. Prolonged shear stress-stimulated increases in eNOS protein levels were not affected by inhibition of MEK- or PI-3K-mediated pathways. In conclusion, pulsatile shear stress greatly induces NO production by OFPAE cells through the mechanisms of both PI-3K-mediated eNOS activation and elevations in eNOS protein levels; bFGF does not further stimulate eNOS expression under flow condition.

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