Effects of serum deprivation on the mechanical properties of adherent vascular smooth muscle cells

Proc Inst Mech Eng H. 2008 Jul;222(5):761-72. doi: 10.1243/09544119JEIM371.


Vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) function plays a key role in regulating the development and progression of vascular lesions. Among the more significant phenomena that occur during the development of these lesions is the phenotypic switching of VSMCs from a contractile to a synthetic state. A better understanding of the concurrent changes to VSMC mechanical properties that occur with phenotypic shifts can help to elucidate the role of VSMC mechanics in the development of vascular diseases. In the current study, the mechanical properties of adherent cultured rat aortic VSMCs were assessed by atomic force microscopy. Serum starvation was used to induce a phenotypic shift in vitro. It was concluded that serum starvation led to a statistically significant increase in apparent elastic modulus after 5 days, as well as a statistically significant decrease in hysteresis after culture for 3 days. If this trend of VSMC mechanical properties changing concurrently with phenotypic shifts were to hold true in vivo, such changes could affect the processes of mechanotransduction and/or arterial mechanical properties, thereby contributing to the progression of vascular disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Computer Simulation
  • Culture Media, Serum-Free*
  • Elasticity
  • Hardness
  • Models, Cardiovascular*
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / cytology*
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / physiology*
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / physiology*
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / ultrastructure*
  • Rats
  • Stress, Mechanical


  • Culture Media, Serum-Free