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PLoS One. 2014 Feb 10;9(2):e88304. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088304. eCollection 2014.

Wall shear stress effects on endothelial-endothelial and endothelial-smooth muscle cell interactions in tissue engineered models of the vascular wall.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.


Vascular functions are affected by wall shear stresses (WSS) applied on the endothelial cells (EC), as well as by the interactions of the EC with the adjacent smooth muscle cells (SMC). The present study was designed to investigate the effects of WSS on the endothelial interactions with its surroundings. For this purpose we developed and constructed two co-culture models of EC and SMC, and compared their response to that of a single monolayer of cultured EC. In one co-culture model the EC were cultured on the SMC, whereas in the other model the EC and SMC were cultured on the opposite sides of a membrane. We studied EC-matrix interactions through focal adhesion kinase morphology, EC-EC interactions through VE-Cadherin expression and morphology, and EC-SMC interactions through the expression of Cx43 and Cx37. In the absence of WSS the SMC presence reduced EC-EC connectivity but produced EC-SMC connections using both connexins. The exposure to WSS produced discontinuity in the EC-EC connections, with a weaker effect in the co-culture models. In the EC monolayer, WSS exposure (12 and 4 dyne/cm(2) for 30 min) increased the EC-EC interaction using both connexins. WSS exposure of 12 dyne/cm(2) did not affect the EC-SMC interactions, whereas WSS of 4 dyne/cm(2) elevated the amount of Cx43 and reduced the amount of Cx37, with a different magnitude between the models. The reduced endothelium connectivity suggests that the presence of SMC reduces the sealing properties of the endothelium, showing a more inflammatory phenotype while the distance between the two cell types reduced their interactions. These results demonstrate that EC-SMC interactions affect EC phenotype and change the EC response to WSS. Furthermore, the interactions formed between the EC and SMC demonstrate that the 1-side model can simulate better the arterioles, while the 2-side model provides better simulation of larger arteries.

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