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Vasc Med. 2011 Oct;16(5):365-77. doi: 10.1177/1358863X11422109.

Mechanotransduction of shear in the endothelium: basic studies and clinical implications.

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  • 1Indiana University, Bloomington, USA.


The endothelium plays an integral role in the development and progression of atherosclerosis. Hemodynamic forces, particularly shear stress, have a powerful influence on endothelial phenotype and function; however, there is no clear consensus on how endothelial cells sense shear. Nevertheless, multiple endothelial cell signal transduction pathways are activated when exposed to shear stress in vitro. The type of shear, laminar or oscillatory, impacts which signal transduction pathways are initiated as well as which subsequent genes are up- or down-regulated, thereby influencing endothelial phenotype and function. Recently, human studies have examined the impact of shear stress and different shear patterns at rest and during exercise on endothelial function. Current evidence supports the theory that augmented exercise-induced shear stress contributes to improved endothelial function following acute exercise and exercise training, whereas retrograde shear initiates vascular dysfunction. The purpose of this review is to examine the current theories on how endothelial cells sense shear stress, to provide an overview on shear stress-induced signal transduction pathways and subsequent gene expression, and to review the current literature pertaining to shear stress and shear patterns at rest as well as during exercise in humans and the related effects on endothelial function.

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