Send to

Choose Destination
Biophys Chem. 2010 Dec;153(1):1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bpc.2010.07.002. Epub 2010 Aug 11.

The effect of shear stress on protein conformation: Physical forces operating on biochemical systems: The case of von Willebrand factor.

Author information

Institute of Biochemistry and Clinical Biochemistry, Catholic University School of Medicine, Rome, Italy.


Macromolecules and cells exposed to blood flow in the circulatory tree experience hydrodynamic forces that affect their structure and function. After introducing the general theory of the effects of shear forces on protein conformation, selected examples are presented in this review for biological macromolecules sensitive to shear stress. In particular, the biochemical effects of shear stress in controlling the von Willebrand Factor (VWF) conformation are extensively described. This protein, together with blood platelets, is the main actor of the early steps of primary haemostasis. Under the effect of shear forces >30 dyn/cm², VWF unfolding occurs and the protein exhibits an extended chain conformation oriented in the general direction of the shear stress field. The stretched VWF conformation favors also a process of self aggregation, responsible for the formation of a spider web network, particularly efficient in the trapping process of flowing platelets. Thus, the effect of shear stress on conformational changes in VWF shows a close structure-function relationship in VWF for platelet adhesion and thrombus formation in arterial circulation, where high shear stress is present. The investigation of biophysical effects of shear forces on VWF conformation contributes to unraveling the molecular interaction mechanisms involved in arterial thrombosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center