Send to

Choose Destination
J Biomech. 2001 Dec;34(12):1563-72.

Specificity of endothelial cell reorientation in response to cyclic mechanical stretching.

Author information

Department of Biomedical Engineering, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA.


Evidence suggests that cellular responses to mechanical stimuli depend specifically on the type of stimuli imposed. For example, when subjected to fluid shear stress, endothelial cells align along the flow direction. In contrast, in response to cyclic stretching, cells align away from the stretching direction. However, a few aspects of this cell alignment response remain to be clarified: (1) Is the cell alignment due to actual cell reorientation or selective cell detachment? (2) Does the resulting cell alignment represent a response of the cells to elongation or shortening, or both? (3) Does the cell alignment depend on the stretching magnitude or rate, or both? Finally, the role of the actin cytoskeleton and microtubules in the cell alignment response remains unclear. To address these questions, we grew human aortic endothelial cells on deformable silicone membranes and subjected them to three types of cyclic stretching: simple elongation, pure uniaxial stretching and equi-biaxial stretching. Examination of the same cells before and after stretching revealed that they reoriented. Cells subjected to either simple elongation or pure uniaxial stretching reoriented specifically toward the direction of minimal substrate deformation, even though the directions for the two types of stretching differed by only about 20 degrees. At comparable stretching durations, the extent of cell reorientation was more closely related to the stretching magnitude than the stretching rate. The actin cytoskeleton of the endothelial cell subjected to either type of stretching was reorganized into parallel arrays of actin filaments (i.e., stress fibers) aligned in the direction of the minimal substrate deformation. Furthermore, in response to equi-biaxial stretching, the actin cytoskeleton was remodeled into a "tent-like" structure oriented out of the membrane plane-again towards the direction of the minimal substrate deformation. Finally, abolishing microtubules prevented neither the formation of stress fibers nor cell reorientation. Thus, endothelial cells respond very specifically to the type of deformation imposed upon them.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center