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Biorheology. 2005;42(6):421-41.

Biorheological views of endothelial cell responses to mechanical stimuli.

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Department of Bioengineering and Robotics, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan.


Vascular endothelial cells are located at the innermost layer of the blood vessel wall and are always exposed to three different mechanical forces: shear stress due to blood flow, hydrostatic pressure due to blood pressure and cyclic stretch due to vessel deformation. It is well known that endothelial cells respond to these mechanical forces and change their shapes, cytoskeletal structures and functions. In this review, we would like to mainly focus on the effects of shear stress and hydrostatic pressure on endothelial cell morphology. After applying fluid shear stress, cultured endothelial cells show marked elongation and orientation in the flow direction. In addition, thick stress fibers of actin filaments appear and align along the cell long axis. Thus, endothelial cell morphology is closely related to the cytoskeletal structure. Further, the dynamic course of the morphological changes is shown and the related events such as changes in mechanical stiffness and functions are also summarized. When endothelial cells were exposed to hydrostatic pressure, they exhibited a marked elongation and orientation in a random direction, together with development of centrally located, thick stress fibers. Pressured endothelial cells also exhibited a multilayered structure with less expression of VE-cadherin unlike under control conditions. Simultaneous loading of hydrostatic pressure and shear stress inhibited endothelial cell multilayering and induced elongation and orientation of endothelial cells with well-developed VE-cadherin in a monolayer, which suggests that for a better understanding of vascular endothelial cell responses one has to take into consideration the combination of the different mechanical forces such as exist under in vivo mechanical conditions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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