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1.  Mechanotransduction at the basis of endothelial barrier function 
Tissue Barriers  2013;1(2):e24180.
Destabilization of cell-cell contacts involved in the maintenance of endothelial barrier function can lead to increased endothelial permeability. This increase in endothelial permeability results in an anarchical movement of fluid, solutes and cells outside the vasculature and into the surrounding tissues, thereby contributing to various diseases such as stroke or pulmonary edema. Thus, a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms regulating endothelial cell junction integrity is required for developing new therapies for these diseases. In this review, we describe the mechanotransduction mechanism at the basis of adherens junction strengthening at endothelial cell-cell contacts. More particularly, we report on the emerging role of α-catenin and EPLIN that act as a mechanotransmitter of myosin-IIgenerated traction forces. The interplay between α-catenin, EPLIN and the myosin-II machinery initiates the junctional recruitment of vinculin and α-actinin leading to a drastic remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton and to cortical actin ring reshaping. The pathways initiated by tyrosine phosphorylation of VE-cadherin at the basis of endothelial cell–cell junction remodeling is also reported, as it may be interrelated to α-catenin/ EPLIN-mediated mechanotransduction mechanisms. We also describe the junctional mechanosensory complex composed of PECAM-1, VE-cadherin and VEGFR2 that is able to transmit signaling pathway under the onset of shear stress. This mechanosensing mechanism, involved in the earliest events promoting atherogenesis, is required for endothelial cell alignment along flow direction.
PMCID: PMC3879236  PMID: 24665386
adherens junctions; biology of endothelial barrier; junction and cancer; junction and signaling; leukocyte-endothelial interactions
2.  Fluid shear stress on endothelial cells modulates mechanical tension across VE-cadherin and PECAM-1 
Current biology : CB  2013;23(11):1024-1030.
Fluid shear stress (FSS) from blood flow acting on the endothelium critically regulates vascular morphogenesis, blood pressure and atherosclerosis [1]. FSS applied to endothelial cells (EC) triggers signaling events including opening of ion channels, activation of signaling pathways and changes in gene expression. Elucidating how ECs sense flow important for understanding both normal vascular function and disease. EC responses to FSS are mediated in part by a junctional mechanosensory complex consisting of VE-cadherin, PECAM-1, and VEGFR2 [2]. Previous work suggested that flow increases force on PECAM-1, which initiates signaling [2–4]. Deletion of PECAM-1 blocks responses to flow in vitro and flow-dependent vascular remodeling in vivo [2, 5]. To understand this process, we developed and validated FRET-based tension sensors for VE-cadherin and PECAM-1 using our previously developed FRET tension biosensor [6]. FRET measurements showed that in static culture, VE-cadherin in cell-cell junctions bears significant myosin-dependent tension, whereas there was no detectable tension on VE-cadherin outside of junctions. Onset of shear stress triggered a rapid (<30 sec) decrease in tension across VE-cadherin, which paralleled a decrease in total cell-cell junctional tension. Flow triggered a simultaneous increase in tension across junctional PECAM-1, while non-junctional PECAM-1 was unaffected. Tension on PECAM-1 was mediated by flow-stimulated association with vimentin. These data confirm the prediction that shear increases force on PECAM-1. However, they also argue against the current model of passive transfer of force through the cytoskeleton to the junctions [7], showing instead that flow triggers cytoskeletal remodeling, which alters forces across the junctional receptors.
PMCID: PMC3676707  PMID: 23684974
3.  Hemodynamic shear stress and the endothelium in cardiovascular pathophysiology 
Endothelium lining the cardiovascular system is highly sensitive to hemodynamic shear stresses that act at the vessel luminal surface in the direction of blood flow. Physiological variations of shear stress regulate acute changes in vascular diameter and when sustained induce slow, adaptive, structural-wall remodeling. Both processes are endothelium-dependent and are systemically and regionally compromised by hyperlipidemia, hypertension, diabetes and inflammatory disorders. Shear stress spans a range of spatiotemporal scales and contributes to regional and focal heterogeneity of endothelial gene expression, which is important in vascular pathology. Regions of flow disturbances near arterial branches, bifurcations and curvatures result in complex spatiotemporal shear stresses and their characteristics can predict atherosclerosis susceptibility. Changes in local artery geometry during atherogenesis further modify shear stress characteristics at the endothelium. Intravascular devices can also influence flow-mediated endothelial responses. Endothelial flow-induced responses include a cell-signaling repertoire, collectively known as mechanotransduction, that ranges from instantaneous ion fluxes and biochemical pathways to gene and protein expression. A spatially decentralized mechanism of endothelial mechanotransduction is dominant, in which deformation at the cell surface induced by shear stress is transmitted as cytoskeletal tension changes to sites that are mechanically coupled to the cytoskeleton. A single shear stress mechanotransducer is unlikely to exist; rather, mechanotransduction occurs at multiple subcellular locations.
PMCID: PMC2851404  PMID: 19029993
atherosclerosis; endothelial mechanotransduction; hemodynamics
4.  Flow (shear stress)-induced endothelium-dependent dilation is altered in mice lacking the gene encoding for dystrophin 
Circulation  2001;103(6):864-870.
Dystrophin has a key role in striated muscles mechanotransduction of physical forces. Although cytoskeletal elements play a major role in the mechanotransduction of pressure and flow in vascular cells, the role of dystrophin in vascular functions has not yet been investigated. Thus we studied endothelial and muscular responses of arteries isolated from mice lacking dystrophin (mdx).
Methods and results
Carotid and mesenteric resistance arteries (120μm diameter) were isolated and mounted in vitro in an arteriograph to control intraluminal pressure and flow. Blood pressure was not affected by the absence of dystrophin. Pressure (myogenic)-, phenylephrine- and KCl-induced tone were unchanged. Flow (shear stress) -induced dilation in arteries isolated from mdx mice was decreased by 50 to 60%, whereas dilation to acetylcholine or sodium nitroprusside were unaffected. L-NAME-sensitive flow-dilation was also decreased in arteries from mdx mice. Thus the absence of dystrophin was associated to a defect in signal transduction of shear stress. Dystrophin was present in vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cells, as shown by immunolocalization and localized at the level of the plasma membrane, as seen by confocal microscopy of perfused isolated arteries.
This is the first functional study of arteries lacking the gene for dystrophin. Vascular reactivity was normal with the exception of flow-induced dilation. Thus dystrophin could play a specific role in shear stress-mechanotransduction in arterial endothelial cells. Organs damages in diseases such as Duchenne’s dystrophy might be aggravated by such a defectuous arterial response to flow.
Short abstract
Dystrophin plays an active role in the transduction of mechanical forces in striated muscle. We showed that the absence of dystrophin altered specifically the mechanotransduction of shear stress due to flow by the endothelium of arteries isolated from mice lacking the gene for dystrophin (mdx), whereas other forms of vascular tone, dilators or constrictors, were unaffected.
Thus dystrophin plays a specific role in shear stress-mechanotransduction in arterial endothelial cells. Finally, organs damages in diseases such as Duchenne’s dystrophy might be aggravated by defectuous arterial responses to changes in blood flow.
PMCID: PMC2233878  PMID: 11171796
Acetylcholine; pharmacology; Analysis of Variance; Animals; Blood Flow Velocity; Blood Pressure; Calcium; pharmacology; Carotid Arteries; drug effects; metabolism; Dystrophin; analysis; deficiency; genetics; Endothelium; Vascular; drug effects; physiology; Humans; Mesenteric Arteries; drug effects; metabolism; Mice; Mice; Inbred mdx; Microscopy; Confocal; Muscle; Skeletal; blood supply; drug effects; physiology; Nitroprusside; pharmacology; Phenylephrine; pharmacology; Potassium Chloride; pharmacology; Signal Transduction; Vasodilation; drug effects
5.  Heparan sulfate proteoglycan mediates shear stress-induced endothelial gene expression in mouse embryonic stem cell-derived endothelial cells 
Biotechnology and bioengineering  2011;109(2):583-594.
It has been shown that shear stress plays a critical role in promoting endothelial cell (EC) differentiation from embryonic stem cell (ESC)-derived EC. However, the underlying mechanisms mediating shear stress effect in this process have yet to be investigated. It has been reported that the glycocalyx component heparan sulfate proteoglycan (HSPG) mediates shear stress mechanotransduction in mature EC. In this study, we investigated whether cell surface HSPG plays a role in shear stress modulation of EC phenotype. ESC-derived endothelial cells were subjected to shear stress (5 dyn/cm2) for 8 hours with or without heparinase III (Hep III) that digests heparan sulfate. Immunostaining showed that ESC-derived EC surfaces contain abundant HSPG, which could be cleaved by Hep III. We observed that shear stress significantly increased the expression of vascular endothelial cell-specific marker genes (vWF, VE-cadherin, PECAM-1). The effect of shear stress on expression of tight junction protein genes (ZO-1, OCLD, CLD5) was also evaluated. Shear stress increased the expression of ZO-1 and CLD5, while it didn’t alter the expression of OCLD. Shear stress increased expression of vasodilatory genes (eNOS, COX-2), while it decreased the expression of the vasoconstrictive gene ET1. After reduction of HSPG with Hep III, the shear stress-induced expression of vWF, VE-cadherin, ZO-1, eNOS, and COX-2, were abolished, suggesting that shear stress-induced expression of these genes depends on HSPG. These findings indicate for the first time that HSPG is a mechanosensor mediating shear stress-induced EC differentiation from ESC-derived EC cells.
PMCID: PMC3228881  PMID: 21837663
shear stress; glycoclayx; heparan sulfate proteoglycan; mechanotransduction; embryonic stem cell; endothelial cell
6.  Atheroprone Hemodynamics Regulate Fibronectin Deposition to Create Positive Feedback that Sustains Endothelial Inflammation 
Circulation research  2010;106(11):1703-1711.
The extracellular matrix protein, fibronectin (FN), is focally deposited in regions of atherosclerosis where it contributes to inflammatory signaling.
To elucidate the mechanism by which FN deposition is regulated by local shear stress patterns, its dependence on PECAM-1 mechanotransduction, and the role this pathway plays in sustaining an atheroprone/pro-inflammatory phenotype.
Methods and Results
Human endothelial cells were exposed in vitro to atheroprone or atheroprotective shear stress patterns derived from human carotid arteries. Onset of atheroprotective flow induced a transient increase in FN deposition, whereas atheroprone flow caused a steady increase in FN expression and integrin activation over time, leading to a significant and sustained increase in FN deposition relative to atheroprotective conditions. Comparing FN staining in ApoE−/− and ApoE−/−PECAM−/− mice showed that PECAM-1 was essential for FN accumulation in atheroprone regions of the aortic arch. In vitro, siRNA against PECAM-1 blocked the induction of FN and the activation of NF-κB by atheroprone flow, which was rescued by the addition of exogenous FN. Additionally, blocking NF-κB activation attenuated the flow-induced FN expression. siRNA against FN significantly reduced NF-κB activity, which was rescued by the addition of exogenous FN.
These results indicate that FN gene expression and assembly into matrix fibrils is induced by atheroprone fluid shear stress. This effect is mediated at least in part by the transcription factor NF-κB. Additionally, because FN promotes activation of NF-κB, atheroprone shear stress creates a positive feedback to maintain inflammation.
PMCID: PMC2891748  PMID: 20378855
hemodynamics; atherosclerosis; fibronectin
7.  Inhibition of c-Jun N-Terminal Kinase Attenuates Low Shear Stress–Induced Atherogenesis in Apolipoprotein E–Deficient Mice 
Molecular Medicine  2011;17(9-10):990-999.
Atherosclerosis begins as local inflammation of arterial walls at sites of disturbed flow, such as vessel curvatures and bifurcations with low shear stress. c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) is a major regulator of flow-dependent gene expression in endothelial cells in atherosclerosis. However, little is known about the in vivo role of JNK in low shear stress in atherosclerosis. We aimed to observe the effect of JNK on low shear stress–induced atherogenesis in apolipoprotein E-deficient (ApoE−/−) mice and investigate the potential mechanism in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs). We divided 84 male ApoE−/− mice into two groups for treatment with normal saline (NS) (n = 42) and JNK inhibitor SP600125 (JNK-I) (n = 42). Perivascular shear stress modifiers were placed around the right carotid arteries, and plaque formation was studied at low shear stress regions. The left carotid arteries without modifiers represented undisturbed shear stress as a control. The NS group showed atherosclerotic lesions in arterial regions with low shear stress, whereas the JNK-I group showed almost no atherosclerotic lesions. Corresponding to the expression of proatherogenic vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (VCAM-1), phospho-JNK (p-JNK) level was higher in low shear stress regions with NS than with JNK-I inhibitor. In HUVECs under low shear stress, siRNA knockdown and SP600125 inhibition of JNK attenuated nuclear factor (NF)-κB activity and VCAM-1 expression. Furthermore, siRNA knockdown of platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule 1 (PECAM-1) (CD31) reduced p-JNK and VCAM-1 levels after low shear stress stimulation. JNK may play a critical role in low shear stress–induced atherogenesis by a PECAM-1–dependent mechanosensory pathway and modulating NF-κB activity and VCAM-1 expression.
PMCID: PMC3188877  PMID: 21629969
8.  Fluid Flow Mechanotransduction in Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells and Fibroblasts 
Annals of biomedical engineering  2011;39(6):1608-1619.
Understanding how vascular wall endothelial cells (ECs), smooth muscle cells (SMCs), and fibroblasts (FBs) sense and transduce the stimuli of hemodynamic forces (shear stress, cyclic strain, and hydrostatic pressure) into intracellular biochemical signals is critical to prevent vascular disease development and progression. ECs lining the vessel lumen directly sense alterations in blood flow shear stress and then communicate with medial SMCs and adventitial FBs to regulate vessel function and disease. Shear stress mechanotransduction in ECs has been extensively studied and reviewed. In the case of endothelial damage, blood flow shear stress may directly act on the superficial layer of SMCs and transmural interstitial flow may be elevated on medial SMCs and adventitial FBs. Therefore, it is also important to investigate direct shear effects on vascular SMCs as well as FBs. The work published in the last two decades has shown that shear stress and interstitial flow have significant influences on vascular SMCs and FBs. This review summarizes work that considered direct shear effects on SMCs and FBs and provides the first comprehensive overview of the underlying mechanisms that modulate SMC secretion, alignment, contraction, proliferation, apoptosis, differentiation, and migration in response to 2-dimensional (2D) laminar, pulsatile, and oscillating flow shear stresses and 3D interstitial flow. A mechanistic model of flow sensing by SMCs is also provided to elucidate possible mechanotransduction pathways through surface glycocalyx, integrins, membrane receptors, ion channels, and primary cilia. Understanding flow-mediated mechanotransduction in SMCs and FBs and the interplay with ECs should be helpful in exploring strategies to prevent flow-initiated atherosclerosis and neointima formation and has implications in vascular tissue engineering.
PMCID: PMC3184546  PMID: 21479754
Shear stress; Interstitial flow; Mechanobiology; Flow sensing; Glycocalyx; Endothelial cell; Vascular lesion formation; 3-Dimensional; Tissue engineering
9.  Neurosensory mechanotransduction through acid-sensing ion channels 
Acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs) are voltage-insensitive cation channels responding to extracellular acidification. ASIC proteins have two transmembrane domains and a large extracellular domain. The molecular topology of ASICs is similar to that of the mechanosensory abnormality 4- or 10-proteins expressed in touch receptor neurons and involved in neurosensory mechanotransduction in nematodes. The ASIC proteins are involved in neurosensory mechanotransduction in mammals. The ASIC isoforms are expressed in Merkel cell–neurite complexes, periodontal Ruffini endings and specialized nerve terminals of skin and muscle spindles, so they might participate in mechanosensation. In knockout mouse models, lacking an ASIC isoform produces defects in neurosensory mechanotransduction of tissue such as skin, stomach, colon, aortic arch, venoatrial junction and cochlea. The ASICs are thus implicated in touch, pain, digestive function, baroreception, blood volume control and hearing. However, the role of ASICs in mechanotransduction is still controversial, because we lack evidence that the channels are mechanically sensitive when expressed in heterologous cells. Thus, ASIC channels alone are not sufficient to reconstruct the path of transducing molecules of mechanically activated channels. The mechanotransducers associated with ASICs need further elucidation. In this review, we discuss the expression of ASICs in sensory afferents of mechanoreceptors, findings of knockout studies, technical issues concerning studies of neurosensory mechanotransduction and possible missing links. Also we propose a molecular model and a new approach to disclose the molecular mechanism underlying the neurosensory mechanotransduction.
PMCID: PMC3823015  PMID: 23490035
ASIC; MEC; DRG; mechanotransduction; mechanoreceptor; touch; pain; mechano-clamp; mechanically activated current
10.  Non-Overlapping Functions for Pyk2 and FAK in Osteoblasts during Fluid Shear Stress-Induced Mechanotransduction 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e16026.
Mechanotransduction, the process by which cells convert external mechanical stimuli such as fluid shear stress (FSS) into biochemical changes, plays a critical role in maintenance of the skeleton. We have proposed that mechanical stimulation by FSS across the surfaces of bone cells results in formation of unique signaling complexes called mechanosomes that are launched from sites of adhesion with the extracellular matrix and with other bone cells [1]. Deformation of adhesion complexes at the cell membrane ultimately results in alteration of target gene expression. Recently, we reported that focal adhesion kinase (FAK) functions as a part of a mechanosome complex that is required for FSS-induced mechanotransduction in bone cells. This study extends this work to examine the role of a second member of the FAK family of non-receptor protein tyrosine kinases, proline-rich tyrosine kinase 2 (Pyk2), and determine its role during osteoblast mechanotransduction. We use osteoblasts harvested from mice as our model system in this study and compared the contributions of Pyk2 and FAK during FSS induced mechanotransduction in osteoblasts. We exposed Pyk2+/+ and Pyk2−/− primary calvarial osteoblasts to short period of oscillatory fluid flow and analyzed downstream activation of ERK1/2, and expression of c-fos, cyclooxygenase-2 and osteopontin. Unlike FAK, Pyk2 was not required for fluid flow-induced mechanotransduction as there was no significant difference in the response of Pyk2+/+ and Pyk2−/− osteoblasts to short periods of fluid flow (FF). In contrast, and as predicted, FAK−/− osteoblasts were unable to respond to FF. These data indicate that FAK and Pyk2 have distinct, non-redundant functions in launching mechanical signals during osteoblast mechanotransduction. Additionally, we compared two methods of generating FF in both cell types, oscillatory pump method and another orbital platform method. We determined that both methods of generating FF induced similar responses in both primary calvarial osteoblasts and immortalized calvarial osteoblasts.
PMCID: PMC3026802  PMID: 21283581
11.  Endothelial Cell PECAM-1 Promotes Atherosclerotic Lesions in Areas of Disturbed Flow in ApoE-Deficient Mice 
Platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule-1 (PECAM-1, CD31) has recently been shown to form an essential element of a mechanosensory complex that mediates endothelial responses to fluid shear stress. The aim of this study was to determine the in vivo role of PECAM-1 in atherosclerosis.
Methods and Results
We crossed C57BL/6 Pecam1−/− mice with apolipoprotein E–deficient (Apoe−/−) mice. On a Western diet, Pecam1−/−Apoe−/− mice showed reduced atherosclerotic lesion size compared to Apoe−/− mice. Striking differences were observed in the lesser curvature of the aortic arch, an area of disturbed flow, but not in the descending thoracic or abdominal aorta. Vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) expression, macrophage infiltration, and endothelial nuclear NF-κB were all reduced in Pecam1−/−Apoe−/− mice. Bone marrow transplantation suggested that endothelial PECAM-1 is the main determinant of atherosclerosis in the aortic arch, but that hematopoietic PECAM-1 promotes lesions in the abdominal aorta. In vitro data show that siRNA-based knockdown of PECAM-1 attenuates endothelial NF-κB activity and VCAM-1 expression under conditions of atheroprone flow.
These results indicate that endothelial PECAM-1 contributes to atherosclerotic lesion formation in regions of disturbed flow by regulating NF-κB–mediated gene expression.
PMCID: PMC2651147  PMID: 18688018
atherosclerosis; shear stress sensing; adhesion molecules; endothelium; macrophages
12.  Mechanotransduction in the Endothelium: Role of Membrane Proteins and Reactive Oxygen Species in Sensing, Transduction, and Transmission of the Signal with Altered Blood Flow 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2014;20(6):899-913.
Significance: Changes in shear stress associated with alterations in blood flow initiate a signaling cascade that modulates the vascular phenotype. Shear stress is “sensed” by the endothelium via a mechanosensitive complex on the endothelial cell (EC) membrane that has been characterized as a “mechanosome” consisting of caveolae, platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule (PECAM), vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR2), vascular endothelial (VE)–cadherin, and possibly other elements. This shear signal is transduced by cell membrane ion channels and various kinases and results in the activation of NADPH oxidase (type 2) with the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Recent Advances: The signaling cascade associated with stop of shear, as would occur in vivo with various obstructive pathologies, leads to cell proliferation and eventual revascularization. Critical Issues and Future Directions: Although several elements of mechanosensing such as the sensing event, the transduction, transmission, and reception of the mechanosignal are now reasonably well understood, the links among these discrete steps in the pathway are not clear. Thus, identifying the mechanisms for the interaction of the KATP channel, the kinases, and ROS to drive long-term adaptive responses in ECs is necessary. A critical re-examination of the signaling events associated with complex flow patterns (turbulent, oscillatory) under physiological conditions is also essential for the progress in the field. Since these complex shear patterns may be associated with an atherosclerosis susceptible phenotype, a specific challenge will be the pharmacological modulation of the responses to altered signaling events that occur at specific sites of disturbed or obstructed flow. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 20, 899–913.
PMCID: PMC3924805  PMID: 24328670
13.  Endothelial-dependent Mechanisms Regulate Leukocyte Transmigration: A Process Involving the Proteasome and Disruption of the Vascular Endothelial–Cadherin Complex at Endothelial Cell-to-Cell Junctions  
Although several adhesion molecules expressed on leukocytes (β1 and β2 integrins, platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule 1 [PECAM-1], and CD47) and on endothelium (intercellular adhesion molecule 1, PECAM-1) have been implicated in leukocyte transendothelial migration, less is known about the role of endothelial lateral junctions during this process. We have shown previously (Read, M.A., A.S. Neish, F.W. Luscinskas, V.J. Palambella, T. Maniatis, and T. Collins. 1995. Immunity. 2:493–506) that inhibitors of the proteasome reduce lymphocyte and neutrophil adhesion and transmigration across TNF-α–activated human umbilical vein endothelial cell (EC) monolayers in an in vitro flow model. The current study examined EC lateral junction proteins, principally the vascular endothelial (VE)–cadherin complex and the effects of proteasome inhibitors (MG132 and lactacystin) on lateral junctions during leukocyte adhesion, to gain a better understanding of the role of EC junctions in leukocyte transmigration. Both biochemical and indirect immunofluorescence analyses of the adherens junction zone of EC monolayers revealed that neutrophil adhesion, not transmigration, induced disruption of the VE–cadherin complex and loss of its lateral junction localization. In contrast, PECAM-1, which is located at lateral junctions and is implicated in neutrophil transmigration, was not altered. These findings identify new and interrelated endothelial-dependent mechanisms for leukocyte transmigration that involve alterations in lateral junction structure and a proteasome-dependent event(s).
PMCID: PMC2199034  PMID: 9254650
14.  Nesprin-3 regulates endothelial cell morphology, perinuclear cytoskeletal architecture, and flow-induced polarization 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2011;22(22):4324-4334.
Nesprin-3, a protein that links intermediate filaments to the nucleus, plays a role in vascular endothelial cell (EC) function. Nesprin-3 regulates EC morphology, perinuclear cytoskeletal organization, centrosome–nuclear connectivity, and flow-induced cell polarization and migration.
Changes in blood flow regulate gene expression and protein synthesis in vascular endothelial cells, and this regulation is involved in the development of atherosclerosis. How mechanical stimuli are transmitted from the endothelial luminal surface to the nucleus is incompletely understood. The linker of nucleus and cytoskeleton (LINC) complexes have been proposed as part of a continuous physical link between the plasma membrane and subnuclear structures. LINC proteins nesprin-1, -2, and -4 have been shown to mediate nuclear positioning via microtubule motors and actin. Although nesprin-3 connects intermediate filaments to the nucleus, no functional consequences of nesprin-3 mutations on cellular processes have been described. Here we show that nesprin-3 is robustly expressed in human aortic endothelial cells (HAECs) and localizes to the nuclear envelope. Nesprin-3 regulates HAEC morpho­logy, with nesprin-3 knockdown inducing prominent cellular elongation. Nesprin-3 also organizes perinuclear cytoskeletal organization and is required to attach the centrosome to the nuclear envelope. Finally, nesprin-3 is required for flow-induced polarization of the centrosome and flow-induced migration in HAECs. These results represent the most complete description to date of nesprin-3 function and suggest that nesprin-3 regulates vascular endothelial cell shape, perinuclear cytoskeletal architecture, and important aspects of flow-mediated mechanotransduction.
PMCID: PMC3216658  PMID: 21937718
15.  Mechanotransduction in an extracted cell model: Fyn drives stretch- and flow-elicited PECAM-1 phosphorylation 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2008;182(4):753-763.
Mechanosensing followed by mechanoresponses by cells is well established, but the mechanisms by which mechanical force is converted into biochemical events are poorly understood. Vascular endothelial cells (ECs) exhibit flow- and stretch-dependent responses and are widely used as a model for studying mechanotransduction in mammalian cells. Platelet EC adhesion molecule 1 (PECAM-1) is tyrosine phosphorylated when ECs are exposed to flow or when PECAM-1 is directly pulled, suggesting that it is a mechanochemical converter. We show that PECAM-1 phosphorylation occurs when detergent-extracted EC monolayers are stretched, indicating that this phosphorylation is mechanically triggered and does not require the intact plasma membrane and soluble cytoplasmic components. Using kinase inhibitors and small interfering RNAs, we identify Fyn as the PECAM-1 kinase associated with the model. We further show that stretch- and flow-induced PECAM-1 phosphorylation in intact ECs is abolished when Fyn expression is down-regulated. We suggest that PECAM-1 and Fyn are essential components of a PECAM-1–based mechanosensory complex in ECs.
PMCID: PMC2518713  PMID: 18710921
16.  Evidence for a role of platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule-1 in endothelial cell mechanosignal transduction 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2002;158(4):773-785.
Fluid shear stress (FSS) induces many forms of responses, including phosphorylation of extracellular signal–regulated kinase (ERK) in endothelial cells (ECs). We have earlier reported rapid tyrosine phosphorylation of platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule-1 (PECAM-1) in ECs exposed to FSS. Osmotic changes also induced similar PECAM-1 and ERK phosphorylation with nearly identical kinetics. Because both FSS and osmotic changes should mechanically perturb the cell membrane, they might activate the same mechanosignaling cascade. When PECAM-1 is tyrosine phosphorylated by FSS or osmotic changes, SHP-2 binds to it. Here we show that ERK phosphorylation by FSS or osmotic changes depends on PECAM-1 tyrosine phosphorylation, SHP-2 binding to phospho-PECAM-1, and SHP-2 phosphatase activity. In ECs under flow, detectable amounts of SHP-2 and Gab1 translocated from the cytoplasm to the EC junction. When magnetic beads coated with antibodies against the extracellular domain of PECAM-1 were attached to ECs and tugged by magnetic force for 10 min, PECAM-1 associated with the beads was tyrosine phosphorylated. ERK was also phosphorylated in these cells. Binding of the beads by itself or pulling on the cell surface using poly-l–coated beads did not induce phosphorylation of PECAM-1 and ERK. These results suggest that PECAM-1 is a mechanotransduction molecule.
PMCID: PMC2174013  PMID: 12177047
mechanosignal transduction; shear stress; ERK; SHP-2; Gab1
17.  Shear-induced endothelial mechanotransduction: the interplay between reactive oxygen species (ROS) and nitric oxide (NO) and the pathophysiological implications 
Hemodynamic shear stress, the blood flow-generated frictional force acting on the vascular endothelial cells, is essential for endothelial homeostasis under normal physiological conditions. Mechanosensors on endothelial cells detect shear stress and transduce it into biochemical signals to trigger vascular adaptive responses. Among the various shear-induced signaling molecules, reactive oxygen species (ROS) and nitric oxide (NO) have been implicated in vascular homeostasis and diseases. In this review, we explore the molecular, cellular, and vascular processes arising from shear-induced signaling (mechanotransduction) with emphasis on the roles of ROS and NO, and also discuss the mechanisms that may lead to excessive vascular remodeling and thus drive pathobiologic processes responsible for atherosclerosis. Current evidence suggests that NADPH oxidase is one of main cellular sources of ROS generation in endothelial cells under flow condition. Flow patterns and magnitude of shear determine the amount of ROS produced by endothelial cells, usually an irregular flow pattern (disturbed or oscillatory) producing higher levels of ROS than a regular flow pattern (steady or pulsatile). ROS production is closely linked to NO generation and elevated levels of ROS lead to low NO bioavailability, as is often observed in endothelial cells exposed to irregular flow. The low NO bioavailability is partly caused by the reaction of ROS with NO to form peroxynitrite, a key molecule which may initiate many pro-atherogenic events. This differential production of ROS and RNS (reactive nitrogen species) under various flow patterns and conditions modulates endothelial gene expression and thus results in differential vascular responses. Moreover, ROS/RNS are able to promote specific post-translational modifications in regulatory proteins (including S-glutathionylation, S-nitrosylation and tyrosine nitration), which constitute chemical signals that are relevant in cardiovascular pathophysiology. Overall, the dynamic interplay between local hemodynamic milieu and the resulting oxidative and S-nitrosative modification of regulatory proteins is important for ensuing vascular homeostasis. Based on available evidence, it is proposed that a regular flow pattern produces lower levels of ROS and higher NO bioavailability, creating an anti-atherogenic environment. On the other hand, an irregular flow pattern results in higher levels of ROS and yet lower NO bioavailability, thus triggering pro-atherogenic effects.
PMCID: PMC3898375  PMID: 24410814
Endothelial cell; Mechanotransduction; Reactive oxygen species (ROS); Nitric oxide (NO); Shear stress; Flow pattern
18.  p190RhoGAP links the β1 integrin/caveolin-1 mechano-signaling complex to RhoA and actin remodeling 
Hemodynamic shear stress influences endothelial cell phenotype. Integrins and RhoA are essential components in the process that allow endothelial cells to adapt to flow. However, the signaling mechanisms that relay from integrins to RhoA are not well defined. We hypothesized that the β1 integrin/caveolin-1 signaling complex plays a role in shear stress regulation of RhoA activity through temporal regulation of p190RhoGAP.
Methods and Results
BAEC were subjected to laminar shear stress (10dynes/cm2) for up to 6 hrs. β1 integrin blockade inhibited Src-family kinases (SFK) and p190RhoGAP tyrosine phosophorylation observed following acute onset of shear stress. Depletion of caveolin-1 blocked the decline in p190RhoGAP tyrosine phosporylation observed at later time points through sustaining SFK activity. Manipulation of β1 integrin and caveolin-1 also altered shear-regulation of RhoA activity. More importantly, cells depleted of p190RhoGAP showed faulty temporal regulation of RhoA activity. Each of these treatments attenuated actin reorganization induced by flow. Similarly, stress fibers failed to form in endothelial cells exposed to enhanced blood flow in caveolin-1 knockout mice.
Our studies demonstrate that p190RhoGAP links integrins, caveolin-1/caveolae to RhoA in a mechanotransduction cascade that participates in endothelial adaptation to flow.
PMCID: PMC3140163  PMID: 21051664
caveolae; mechanotransduction; shear stress; p190RhoGAP; integrins
19.  Effect of shear stress and substrate on endothelial DAPK expression, caspase activity, and apoptosis 
BMC Research Notes  2013;6:10.
In the vasculature, misdirected apoptosis in endothelial cells leads to pathological conditions such as inflammation. Along with biochemical and molecular signals, the hemodynamic forces that the cells experience are also important regulators of endothelial functions such as proliferation and apoptosis. Laminar shear stress inhibits apoptosis induced by serum depletion, oxidative stress, and tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα). Death associated protein kinase (DAPK) is a positive regulator of TNFα induced apoptotic pathway. Here we investigate the effect of shear stress on DAPK in endothelial cells on glass or silicone membrane substrate. We have already shown a link between shear stress and DAPK expression and apoptosis in cells on glass. Here we transition our study to endothelial cells on non-glass substrates, such as flexible silicone membrane used for cyclic strain studies.
We modified the classic parallel plate flow chamber to accommodate silicone membrane as substrate for cells, and validated the chamber for cell viability in shear stress experiments. We found that adding shear stress significantly suppressed TNFα induced apoptosis in cells; while shearing cells alone also increased apoptosis on either substrate. We also found that shearing cells at 12 dynes/cm2 for 6 hours resulted in increased apoptosis on both substrates. This shear-induced apoptosis correlated with increased caspase 3/7 activities and DAPK expression and activation via dephosphorylation of serine 308.
These data suggest that shear stress induced apoptosis in endothelial cells via increased DAPK expression and activation as well as caspase-3/7 activity. Most in vitro shear stress studies utilize the conventional parallel plate flow chamber where cells are cultured on glass, which is much stiffer than what cells encounter in vivo. Other mechanotransduction studies have utilized the flexible silicone membrane as substrate, for example, in cyclic stretch studies. Thus, this study bridges the gap between shear stress studies on cells plated on glass to studies on different stiffness of substrates or mechanical stimulation such as cyclic strain. We continue to explore the mechanotransduction role of DAPK in endothelial apoptosis, by using substrates of physiological stiffness for shear stress studies, and by using silicone substrate in cyclic stretch devices.
PMCID: PMC3599066  PMID: 23305096
Shear stress; Substrate; DAPK; Apoptosis; TNFα
20.  IQ Domain GTPase-Activating Protein 1 is Involved in Shear Stress-Induced Progenitor-Derived Endothelial Cell Alignment 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79919.
Shear stress is one of mechanical constraints which are exerted by blood flow on endothelial cells (ECs). To adapt to shear stress, ECs align in the direction of flow through adherens junction (AJ) remodeling. However, mechanisms regulating ECs alignment under shear stress are poorly understood. The scaffold protein IQ domain GTPase activating protein 1 (IQGAP1) is a scaffold protein which couples cell signaling to the actin and microtubule cytoskeletons and is involved in cell migration and adhesion. IQGAP1 also plays a role in AJ organization in epithelial cells. In this study, we investigated the potential IQGAP1 involvement in the endothelial cells alignment under shear stress. Progenitor-derived endothelial cells (PDECs), transfected (or not) with IQGAP1 small interfering RNA, were exposed to a laminar shear stress (1.2 N/m2) and AJ proteins (VE-cadherin and β-catenin) and IQGAP1 were labeled by immunofluorescence. We show that IQGAP1 is essential for ECs alignment under shear stress. We studied the role of IQGAP1 in AJs remodeling of PDECs exposed to shear stress by studying cell localization and IQGAP1 interactions with VE-cadherin and β-catenin by immunofluorescence and Proximity Ligation Assays. In static conditions, IQGAP1 interacts with VE-cadherin but not with β-catenin at the cell membrane. Under shear stress, IQGAP1 lost its interaction from VE-cadherin to β-catenin. This “switch” was concomitant with the loss of β-catenin/VE-cadherin interaction at the cell membrane. This work shows that IQGAP1 is essential to ECs alignment under shear stress and that AJ remodeling represents one of the mechanisms involved. These results provide a new approach to understand ECs alignment under to shear stress.
PMCID: PMC3838429  PMID: 24278215
21.  Acute effects of ionizing radiation on human endothelial barrier function 
Journal of Radiation Research  2014;55(Suppl 1):i97-i98.
The human vasculature is critical to healthy functioning of the tissues of the body and a major factor in maintaining homeostasis is the endothelial barrier. In the brain, the blood–brain barrier (BBB) is highly specialized in order to sustain the neural tissue.
Here, we have examined the effects of radiation on BBB models using a unique variety of endpoints to assess barrier function. These include trans-endothelial electrical resistance (TEER), morphological effects, localization of adhesion and cell junction proteins (in two-dimensional monolayers and in three-dimensional tissue models) and permeability of molecules through the endothelial barrier. Two culture conditions were used to represent conditions on the inside or the lumen of vessels and conditions on the outside or ablumenal side of vessels. For the lumen, cells were cultured in serum and growth factor containing media, and for the ablumenal side of vessels, cells were cultured in serum-free defined media.
Initial experiments with gamma rays in serum-free conditions revealed a previously unknown acute effect involving cell detachment and the loss of the clinically relevant cell adhesion molecule—cell platelet endothelial adhesion molecule (PECAM)-1 [ 1]. Gamma radiation (5 Gy) induced a rapid and transient decrease in TEER at 3 h, with effects also seen at the lower radiotherapy dose of 2 Gy. This dip in resistance correlated with the transient loss PECAM-1 in discrete areas where cells often detached from the monolayer leaving gaps. Loss in PECAM-1 occurred at least in part as detached microparticles. Redistribution of PECAM-1 microparticles was also seen in three-dimensional human tissue models. By 6 h, the remaining cells had migrated to reseal the barrier, coincident with TEER returning to control levels. Resealed monolayers contained fewer cells per unit area and their barrier function was weakened as corroborated by an increased permeability over 24 h. Because PECAM-1 is involved in barrier function and platelet aggregation, this effect is likely highly relevant to cancer radiotherapy using gamma rays.
These studies were extended to include low linear energy transfer (LET) photons of X-rays and ion particles present in the space environment—low LET ion particles including high energy (1 GeV) protons and helium ions. X-rays under serum-free conditions also showed an acute response involving a dip in TEER at 3 h and the loss of PECAM-1 between cells as microparticles. Ion particles, however, did not show these effects of photons under serum-free conditions. Both protons and helium ions at doses up to 5 Gy did not produce this transient change in TEER or PECAM-1, although some longer term effects in TEER were noted.
In the presence of serum and growth factors, however, all radiations tested showed short-term effects in TEER, that of a series of symmetrical peaks which diminished in size over several hours. For 1 GeV protons and helium ions, this effect could be fitted to an equation for under-damped oscillation, a pattern typical of a mechanism for timing of events in periodic processes. For gamma and X-rays, the underdamped oscillation was present but superimposed on a drop in resistance at 3 h similar to that seen in serum-free conditions.
In conclusion, we have shown two acute effects of low LET radiation on the human endothelial barrier. First, a short-term effect of photons but not ion particles involving a single dip in TEER and the loss of PECAM-1 at 3 h after irradiation, and second an underdamped oscillation of TEER induced by both photons and ion particles that to date does not appear to be associated with the loss of PECAM-1 or any other junction molecules.
PMCID: PMC3941523
endothelial barrier; radiation; charged particles
22.  Arterial Response to Shear Stress Critically Depends on Endothelial TRPV4 Expression 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(9):e827.
In blood vessels, the endothelium is a crucial signal transduction interface in control of vascular tone and blood pressure to ensure energy and oxygen supply according to the organs' needs. In response to vasoactive factors and to shear stress elicited by blood flow, the endothelium secretes vasodilating or vasocontracting autacoids, which adjust the contractile state of the smooth muscle. In endothelial sensing of shear stress, the osmo- and mechanosensitive Ca2+-permeable TRPV4 channel has been proposed to be candidate mechanosensor. Using TRPV4−/− mice, we now investigated whether the absence of endothelial TRPV4 alters shear-stress-induced arterial vasodilation.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In TRPV4−/− mice, loss of the TRPV4 protein was confirmed by Western blot, immunohistochemistry and by in situ-patch–clamp techniques in carotid artery endothelial cells (CAEC). Endothelium-dependent vasodilation was determined by pressure myography in carotid arteries (CA) from TRPV4−/− mice and wild-type littermates (WT). In WT CAEC, TRPV4 currents could be elicited by TRPV4 activators 4α-phorbol-12,13-didecanoate (4αPDD), arachidonic acid (AA), and by hypotonic cell swelling (HTS). In striking contrast, in TRPV4−/− mice, 4αPDD did not produce currents and currents elicited by AA and HTS were significantly reduced. 4αPDD caused a robust and endothelium-dependent vasodilation in WT mice, again conspicuously absent in TRPV4−/− mice. Shear stress-induced vasodilation could readily be evoked in WT, but was completely eliminated in TRPV4−/− mice. In addition, flow/reperfusion-induced vasodilation was significantly reduced in TRPV4−/− vs. WT mice. Vasodilation in response to acetylcholine, vasoconstriction in response to phenylephrine, and passive mechanical compliance did not differ between genotypes, greatly underscoring the specificity of the above trpv4-dependent phenotype for physiologically relevant shear stress.
Genetically encoded loss-of-function of trpv4 results in a loss of shear stress-induced vasodilation, a response pattern critically dependent on endothelial TRPV4 expression. Thus, Ca2+-influx through endothelial TRPV4 channels is a molecular mechanism contributing significantly to endothelial mechanotransduction.
PMCID: PMC1959246  PMID: 17786199
23.  PECAM-1 is necessary for flow-induced vascular remodeling 
Vascular remodeling is a physiological process that occurs in response to long-term changes in hemodynamic conditions, but may also contribute to the pathophysiology of intima-media thickening (IMT) and vascular disease. Shear stress detection by the endothelium is thought to be an important determinant of vascular remodeling. Previous work showed that Platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule-1 (PECAM-1) is a component of a mechanosensory complex that mediates endothelial cell (EC) responses to shear stress.
We tested the hypothesis that PECAM-1 contributes to vascular remodeling by analyzing the response to partial carotid artery ligation in PECAM-1 knockout mice and wild-type littermates. PECAM-1 deficiency resulted in impaired vascular remodeling and significantly reduced IMT in areas of low flow. Inward remodeling was associated with PECAM-1-dependent NFκB activation, surface adhesion molecule expression and leukocyte infiltration as well as Akt activation and vascular cell proliferation.
PECAM-1 plays a crucial role in the activation of the NFκB and Akt pathways and inflammatory cell accumulation during vascular remodeling and IMT. Elucidation of some of the signals that drive vascular remodeling represent pharmacologically tractable targets for the treatment of restenosis after balloon angioplasty or stent placement.
PMCID: PMC2723862  PMID: 19390054
hemodynamics; vascular remodeling; intima-media thickening; inflammation
24.  Acute and Chronic Shear Stress Differently Regulate Endothelial Internalization of Nanocarriers Targeted to Platelet-Endothelial Cell Adhesion Molecule-1 
ACS nano  2012;6(10):10.1021/nn302687n.
Intracellular delivery of nanocarriers (NC) is controlled by their design and target cell phenotype, microenvironment, and functional status. Endothelial cells (EC) lining the vascular lumen represent an important target for drug delivery. Endothelium in vivo is constantly or intermittently (as, for example, during ischemia-reperfusion) exposed to blood flow, which influences NC–EC interactions by changing NC transport properties, and by direct mechanical effects upon EC mechanisms involved in NC binding and uptake. EC do not internalize antibodies to marker glycoprotein PECAM(CD31), yet internalize multivalent NC coated with PECAM antibodies (anti-PECAM/NC) via a noncanonical endocytic pathway distantly related to macropinocytosis. Here we studied the effects of flow on EC uptake of anti-PECAM/NC spheres (∼180 nm diameter). EC adaptation to chronic flow, manifested by cellular alignment with flow direction and formation of actin stress fibers, inhibited anti-PECAM/NC endocytosis consistent with lower rates of anti-PECAM/NC endocytosis in vivo in arterial compared to capillary vessels. Acute induction of actin stress fibers by thrombin also inhibited anti-PECAM/NC endocytosis, demonstrating that formation of actin stress fibers impedes EC endocytic machinery. In contrast, acute flow without stress fiber formation, stimulated anti-PECAM/NC endocytosis. Anti-PECAM/NC endocytosis did not correlate with the number of cell-bound particles under flow or static conditions. PECAM cytosolic tail deletion and disruption of cholesterol-rich plasmalemma domains abrogated anti-PECAM/NC endocytosis stimulation by acute flow, suggesting complex regulation of a flow-sensitive endocytic pathway in EC. The studies demonstrate the importance of the local flow microenvironment for NC uptake by the endothelium and suggest that cell culture models of nanoparticle uptake should reflect the microenvironment and phenotype of the target cells.
PMCID: PMC3874124  PMID: 22957767
intracellular delivery; endothelial cells; vascular immunotargeting; cell adhesion molecules; endocytosis; fluid shear stress
25.  Spatial and temporal relationships between cadherins and PECAM-1 in cell-cell junctions of human endothelial cells 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1994;126(1):247-258.
The integrity of the endothelial layer, which lines the entire cavity of the vascular system, depends on tight adhesion of the cells to the underlying basement membrane as well as to each other. It has been previously shown that such interactions occur via membrane receptors that determine the specificity, topology, and mechanical properties of the surface adhesion. Cell-cell junctions between endothelial cells, in culture and in situ, involve both Ca(2+)-dependent and -independent mechanisms that are mediated by distinct adhesion molecules. Ca(2+)- dependent cell-cell adhesion occurs mostly via members of the cadherin family, which locally anchor the microfilament system to the plasma membrane, in adherens junctions. Ca(2+)-independent adhesions were reported to mainly involve members of the Ig superfamily. In this study, we performed three-dimensional microscopic analysis of the relative subcellular distributions of these two endothelial intercellular adhesion systems. We show that cadherins are located at adjacent (usually more apical), yet clearly distinct domains of the lateral plasma membrane, compared to PECAM-1. Moreover, cadherins were first organized in adherens junctions within 2 h after seeding of endothelial cells, forming multiple lateral patches which developed into an extensive belt-like structure over a period of 24 h. PECAM-1 became associated with surface adhesions significantly later and became progressively associated with the cadherin-containing adhesions. Cadherins and PECAM-1 also differed in their detergent extractability, reflecting differences in their mode of association with the cytoskeleton. Moreover, the two adhesion systems could be differentially modulated since short treatment with the Ca2+ chelator EGTA, disrupted the cadherin junctions leaving PECAM-1 apparently intact. These results confirm that endothelial cells possess distinct intercellular contact mechanisms that differ in their spatial and temporal organization as well as in their functional properties.
PMCID: PMC2120098  PMID: 8027182

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