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Circ J. 2009 Nov;73(11):1983-92. Epub 2009 Oct 5.

Vascular mechanobiology: endothelial cell responses to fluid shear stress.

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Laboratory of Biomedical Engineering, School of Medicine, Dokkyo Medical University, Tochigi, Japan.


Endothelial cells (ECs) lining blood vessel walls respond to shear stress, a fluid mechanical force generated by flowing blood, and the EC responses play an important role in the homeostasis of the circulatory system. Abnormal EC responses to shear stress impair various vascular functions and lead to vascular diseases, including hypertension, thrombosis, and atherosclerosis. Bioengineering approaches in which cultured ECs are subjected to shear stress in fluid-dynamically designed flow-loading devices have been widely used to analyze EC responses at the cellular and molecular levels. Remarkable progress has been made, and the results have shown that ECs alter their morphology, function, and gene expression in response to shear stress. Shear stress affects immature cells, as well as mature ECs, and promotes differentiation of bone-marrow-derived endothelial progenitor cells and embryonic stem cells into ECs. Much research has been done on shear stress sensing and signal transduction, and their molecular mechanisms are gradually coming to be understood. However, much remains uncertain, and many candidates have been proposed for shear stress sensors. More extensive studies of vascular mechanobiology should increase our understanding of the molecular basis of the blood-flow-mediated control of vascular functions.

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