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Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2016 Dec 1;311(6):C846-C853. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00288.2015. Epub 2016 Sep 28.

Mechanotransduction of the endothelial glycocalyx mediates nitric oxide production through activation of TRP channels.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering & Mechanics, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Bioengineering Program, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Department of Biomedical Engineering, The City College of the City University of New York, New York, New York; and.
Department of Medicine and Pharmacology, New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York.
Department of Mechanical Engineering & Mechanics, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania;


The endothelial surface glycocalyx (ESG) is a carbohydrate-rich layer found on the vascular endothelium, serving critical functions in the mechanotransduction of blood flow-induced forces. One of the most important protective functions of the ESG is to mediate the production of nitric oxide (NO) in response to blood flow. However, the detailed mechanism underlying ESG's mechanotransduction of the production of NO has not been completely identified. Herein, using the cultured rat brain microvascular endothelial cells (bEnd.3) as a model system, we have implemented a combined atomic force and fluorescence microscopy approach to show that the ESG senses and transduces vertical mechanical stretch to produce NO. This rapid NO production is dependent on the presence of both heparan sulfate (HS) and hyaluronic acid (HA) in ESG, as the removal of HS and/or HA leads to a significant decrease in NO production. Moreover, the production of NO is dependent on the intake of Ca2+ via endothelial transient receptor potential (TRP) channels. Together, our results demonstrate the molecular mechanism of rapid production of NO in response to vertical mechanical stretch.


TRP channels; atomic force microscopy; endothelial cells; glycocalyx; mechanotransduction

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