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Circ Res. 2002 Nov 15;91(10):877-87.

Mechanical signaling and the cellular response to extracellular matrix in angiogenesis and cardiovascular physiology.

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Vascular Biology Program, Departments of Pathology and Surgery, Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital, Boston, Mass 02115, USA.
Harvard Med Sch, Cambridge, MA


Great advances have been made in the identification of the soluble angiogenic factors, insoluble extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules, and receptor signaling pathways that mediate control of angiogenesis--the growth of blood capillaries. This review focuses on work that explores how endothelial cells integrate these chemical signals with mechanical cues from their local tissue microenvironment so as to produce functional capillary networks that exhibit specialized form as well as function. These studies have revealed that ECM governs whether an endothelial cell will switch between growth, differentiation, motility, or apoptosis programs in response to a soluble stimulus based on its ability to mechanically resist cell tractional forces and thereby produce cell and cytoskeletal distortion. Transmembrane integrin receptors play a key role in this mechanochemical transduction process because they both organize a cytoskeletal signaling complex within the focal adhesion and preferentially focus mechanical forces on this site. Molecular filaments within the internal cytoskeleton--microfilaments, microtubules, and intermediate filaments--also contribute to the cell's structural and functional response to mechanical stress through their role as discrete support elements within a tensegrity-stabilized cytoskeletal array. Importantly, a similar form of mechanical control also has been shown to be involved in the regulation of contractility in vascular smooth muscle cells and cardiac myocytes. Thus, the mechanism by which cells perform mechanochemical transduction and the implications of these findings for morphogenetic control are discussed in the wider context of vascular development and cardiovascular physiology.

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