Endothelial cells live in a dynamic environment where they are constantly exposed to external hemodynamic forces and generate cytoskeletal-based endogenous forces. These exogenous and endogenous forces are critical regulators of endothelial cell health and blood vessel maintenance at all generations of the vascular system, from large arteries to capillary beds. The first part of this review highlights the role of the primary exogenous hemodynamic forces of shear, cyclic strain, and pressure forces in mediating endothelial cell response. We then discuss the emergent role of the mechanical properties of the extracellular matrix and of cellular endogenous force generation on endothelial cell function, implicating substrate stiffness and cellular traction stresses as important mediators of endothelial cell health. The intersection of exogenous and endogenous forces on endothelial cell function is discussed, suggesting some of the many remaining questions in the field of endothelial mechanobiology.
Copyright 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.