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Blood. 1997 Aug 15;90(4):1558-64.

Fluid shear stress modulates von Willebrand factor release from human vascular endothelium.

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  • 1Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, Bergamo, Italy.


Fluid shear stress generated by blood flow on arterial wall may play a role in the process of atherosclerosis, not only affecting the mass transport phenomena that take place in blood, but also by modulation of synthesis and secretion of humoral factors released by vascular endothelium that mediate platelet-vessel wall interactions. The present study was designed to investigate whether shear stress, induced by laminar flow, modulates von Willebrand factor (vWF) release from cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) and whether this physical stimulation can affect vWF synthesis. Monolayers of HUVEC were exposed to laminar flow of varying magnitude (from 2 to 12 dynes/cm2) using a cone-and-plate device. The release of vWF in cell supernatant and in extracellular matrix by cells exposed to flow or maintained in static conditions was evaluated by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. HUVEC exposed to laminar flow released higher amounts of vWF into the cell supernatant within few hours of exposure and vWF secretion was dependent on shear stress magnitude. vWF released in extracellular matrix was also higher in cell monolayers exposed to shear than in static controls. vWF mRNA expression in HUVEC was not affected by exposure of cells to laminar flow, indicating that shear-induced vWF release reflected enhanced secretion without de novo protein synthesis. Immunofluorescence studies showed that the release of vWF is due to exocytosis from Weibel-Palade bodies, the storage organelles of vWF. These data indicate a novel mechanism by which local hemodynamic shear forces modulate endothelial cell function and may play a role in development of arterial thrombotic events.

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