The local hemodynamic shear stress waveforms present in an artery dictate the endothelial cell phenotype. The observed decrease of the apical glycocalyx layer on the endothelium in atheroprone regions of the circulation suggests that the glycocalyx may have a central role in determining atherosclerotic plaque formation. However, the kinetics for the cells' ability to adapt its glycocalyx to the environment have not been quantitatively resolved. Here we report that the heparan sulfate component of the glycocalyx of HUVECs increases by 1.4-fold following the onset of high shear stress, compared to static cultured cells, with a time constant of 19 h. Cell morphology experiments show that 12 h are required for the cells to elongate, but only after 36 h have the cells reached maximal alignment to the flow vector. Our findings demonstrate that following enzymatic degradation, heparan sulfate is restored to the cell surface within 12 h under flow whereas the time required is 20 h under static conditions. We also propose a model describing the contribution of endocytosis and exocytosis to apical heparan sulfate expression. The change in HS regrowth kinetics from static to high-shear EC phenotype implies a differential in the rate of endocytic and exocytic membrane turnover.
Keywords: Endothelial glycocalyx; Glycocalyx injury; Heparan sulfate; Heparinase; Shear stress; Transport model.