Cyclic strain induces expression of specific smooth muscle cell markers in human endothelial cells

Differentiation. 2006 Dec;74(9-10):552-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1432-0436.2006.00089.x.


The objective of this study was to determine whether cyclic strain could promote human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) to express markers in common with the mature smooth muscle cell (SMC) phenotype, suggesting endothelial cell to SMC transdifferentiation. HUVECs were cultured on stretched membranes at 10% stretch and 60 cycles/min for 24-96 hr, and demonstrated elongation with enhanced and organized F-actin distribution. By using real-time polymerase chain reaction analysis, the mRNA levels of five specific SMC markers, SM22-alpha, alpha-smooth muscle actin (alpha-SMA), caldesmon-1, smooth muscle myosin heavy chain (SMMHC), and calponin-1 were significantly increased in cyclic strain-treated HUVECs as compared with those in static control cells. Protein levels of SM22-alpha and alpha-SMA were also substantially increased by Western blot and immunofluorescence staining. In addition, two specific endothelial markers, von Willebrand factor (vWF) and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 (VEGFR-2), showed a reduction in mRNA expression. In addition, cyclic strain-induced increase of SM22-alpha and alpha-SMA expression were reversible when cells were cultured back to the static condition. These results demonstrate a possible endothelial cell to SMC transdifferentiation in response to cyclic strain. Hemodynamic forces in modulating endothelial phenotype may play an important role in the vascular system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / genetics
  • Actins / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology*
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Microfilament Proteins / genetics
  • Microfilament Proteins / metabolism
  • Muscle Proteins / genetics
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / cytology
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Umbilical Veins / cytology
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2 / genetics
  • von Willebrand Factor / genetics


  • Actins
  • Biomarkers
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • Muscle Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • transgelin
  • von Willebrand Factor
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2