Hemodynamic Shear Stress and the Endothelium in Cardiovascular Pathophysiology

Nat Clin Pract Cardiovasc Med. 2009 Jan;6(1):16-26. doi: 10.1038/ncpcardio1397. Epub 2008 Nov 25.

Abstract

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.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Angioplasty / instrumentation
  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / pathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / surgery
  • Cytoskeleton / pathology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / pathology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / surgery
  • Hemodynamics*
  • Humans
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular*
  • Models, Cardiovascular
  • Phenotype
  • Prosthesis Design
  • Stents
  • Stress, Mechanical