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J Immunol. 2010 Jul 15;185(2):1215-21. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0903660. Epub 2010 Jun 14.

Mechanical signals activate vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 to upregulate endothelial cell proliferation during inflammation.

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Biomechanics and Tissue Engineering Laboratory, Division of Oral Biology, The Ohio State University College of Dentistry, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


Signals generated by the dynamic mechanical strain critically regulate endothelial cell proliferation and angiogenesis; however, the molecular basis remains unclear. We investigated the mechanisms by which human dermal microvascular endothelial cells (HDMECs) perceive mechanical signals and relay them intracellularly to regulate gene expression and endothelial cell proliferation. HDMECs were exposed to low/physiologic levels of dynamic strain and probed for the differential activation/inhibition of kinases in the mechanosignaling cascade associated with endothelial cell gene activation. Because angiogenesis is important at inflammatory sites, we also assessed the mechanisms of mechanosignaling in the presence of an proinflammatory cytokine IL-1beta. In this article, we demonstrate that the mechanosignaling cascade is initiated by vascular endothelial growth receptor-2 (VEGFR2) activation. Mechanoactivation of VEGFR2 results in its nuclear translocation and elevation of PI3K-dependent Ser473-Akt phosphorylation. Subsequently, activated Akt inactivates the kinase activity of the serine/threonine kinase, glycogen synthase kinase-3beta (GSK3beta), via its Ser9 phosphorylation. Thus, inactive GSK3beta fails to phosphorylate cyclin D1 and prevents its proteosomal degradation and, consequently, promotes endothelial cell survival and proliferation. In the presence of IL-1beta, cyclin D1 is phosphorylated and degraded, leading to inhibition of cell proliferation. However, mechanical signals repress cyclin D1 phosphorylation and upregulate cell proliferation, despite the presence of IL-1beta. The data indicate that the VEGFR2/Akt/GSK3beta signaling cascade plays a critical role in sensing and phospho-relaying mechanical stimuli in endothelial cells. Furthermore, mechanical forces control highly interconnected networks of proinflammatory and Akt signaling cascades to upregulate endothelial cell proliferation.

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