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J Biol Chem. 1998 Oct 9;273(41):26323-9.

Rapid mechanotransduction in situ at the luminal cell surface of vascular endothelium and its caveolae.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


The vascular endothelium is uniquely positioned between the blood and tissue compartments to receive directly the fluid forces generated by the blood flowing through the vasculature. These forces invoke specific responses within endothelial cells and serve to modulate their intrinsic structure and function. The mechanisms by which hemodynamic forces are detected and converted by endothelia into a sequence of biological and even pathological responses are presently unknown. By purifying and subfractionating the luminal endothelial cell plasma membrane from tissue, we show, for the first time, that not only does mechanotransduction occur at the endothelial cell surface directly exposed to vascular flow in vivo but also increased flow in situ induces rapid tyrosine phosphorylation of luminal endothelial cell surface proteins located primarily in the plasmalemmal invaginations called caveolae. Increased flow induces the translocation of signaling molecules primarily to caveolae, ultimately activating the Ras-Raf-mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway. This signaling appears to require intact caveolae. Filipin-induced disassembly of caveolae inhibits both proximal signaling events at the cell surface and downstream activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway. With the molecular machinery required for mediating rapid flow-induced responses as seen in endothelium, caveolae may be flow-sensing organelles converting mechanical stimuli into chemical signals transmitted into the cell.

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