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      Biomechanical activation of vascular endothelium as a determinant of its functional phenotype.

      Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

      Base Sequence, Biomechanical Phenomena, Cells, Cultured, DNA Primers, Endothelium, Vascular, cytology, metabolism, physiology, Gene Expression Profiling, Humans, Molecular Sequence Data, Nucleic Acid Hybridization, Phenotype

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          One of the striking features of vascular endothelium, the single-cell-thick lining of the cardiovascular system, is its phenotypic plasticity. Various pathophysiologic factors, such as cytokines, growth factors, hormones, and metabolic products, can modulate its functional phenotype in health and disease. In addition to these humoral stimuli, endothelial cells respond to their biomechanical environment, although the functional implications of this biomechanical paradigm of activation have not been fully explored. Here we describe a high-throughput genomic analysis of modulation of gene expression observed in cultured human endothelial cells exposed to two well defined biomechanical stimuli-a steady laminar shear stress and a turbulent shear stress of equivalent spatial and temporal average intensity. Comparison of the transcriptional activity of 11,397 unique genes revealed distinctive patterns of up- and down-regulation associated with each type of stimulus. Cluster analyses of transcriptional profiling data were coupled with other molecular and cell biological techniques to examine whether these global patterns of biomechanical activation are translated into distinct functional phenotypes. Confocal immunofluorescence microscopy of structural and contractile proteins revealed the formation of a complex apical cytoskeleton in response to laminar shear stress. Cell cycle analysis documented different effects of laminar and turbulent shear stresses on cell proliferation. Thus, endothelial cells have the capacity to discriminate among specific biomechanical forces and to translate these input stimuli into distinctive phenotypes. The demonstration that hemodynamically derived stimuli can be strong modulators of endothelial gene expression has important implications for our understanding of the mechanisms of vascular homeostasis and atherogenesis.

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