Sustained pulsatile flow regulates endothelial nitric oxide synthase and cyclooxygenase expression in co-cultured vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cells

J Mol Cell Cardiol. 1999 Mar;31(3):619-29. doi: 10.1006/jmcc.1998.0898.


This study addresses the effect of sustained increased pulsatile flow on nitric oxide synthase (NOS) and cyclooxygenase (Cox) expression and activity in co-cultured endothelial cells (EC) and vascular smooth muscle cells (SMC). Using a perfused transcapillary co-culture system which permits the chronic exposure of cultured EC and SMC to physiological shear stresses, co-cultures were exposed to step-wise increases in flow up to: (i) 2 ml/min (low flow: 0.5 dyn/cm2): or (ii) 44 ml/min (high flow: 15 dyn/cm2) and maintained for 72 h before SMC and EC were harvested separately. There was no NOS activity or protein expression in co-cultured SMC under flow conditions. There was a significant increase in eNOS activity in co-cultured EC under high flow conditions, compared to low flow, which correlated with an increase in eNOS expression and mRNA levels. The flow-induced increase in eNOS activity was potentiated by indomethacin treatment, suggesting a modulatory role for a cyclooxygenase product. Prostacyclin levels in co-culture perfusate were significantly elevated under high flow conditions. While both co-cultured EC and SMC expressed cyclooxygenase (Cox-I and Cox-II), they were differentially regulated by pulsatile flow, EC Cox-I and Cox-II protein expression were both decreased. Indomethacin treatment increased the expression of both Cox-I and Cox-II in co-cultured SMC under high flow conditions. We conclude that sustained increases in pulsatile flow maintain elevated eNOS and Cox protein expression and activity in EC while decreasing Cox expression in co-cultured SMC. These data suggest that regulation of these pathways may contribute to flow-induced vascular remodeling in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cattle
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cyclooxygenase 1
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Epoprostenol / metabolism
  • Indomethacin / pharmacology
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism*
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / metabolism*
  • NG-Nitroarginine Methyl Ester / pharmacology
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism*
  • Perfusion
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases / metabolism*
  • Prostaglandins F / metabolism
  • Pulsatile Flow / physiology*
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Rats


  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Isoenzymes
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Prostaglandins F
  • Epoprostenol
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Cyclooxygenase 1
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases
  • Ptgs1 protein, rat
  • NG-Nitroarginine Methyl Ester
  • prostaglandin F1
  • Indomethacin