Significance: Disruption of endothelial function is considered a key event in the development and progression of atherosclerosis. Endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) is a central regulator of cellular function that is important to maintain endothelial homeostasis.
Recent advances: Endothelial homeostasis encompasses acute responses such as adaption of flow to tissue's demand and more sustained responses to injury such as re-endothelialization and sprouting of endothelial cells (ECs) and attraction of circulating angiogenic cells (CAC), both of which support repair of damaged endothelium. The balance and the intensity of endothelial damage and repair might be reflected by changes in circulating endothelial microparticles (EMP) and CAC. Flow-mediated vasodilation (FMD) is a generally accepted clinical read-out of NO-dependent vasodilation, whereas EMP are upcoming prognostically validated markers of endothelial injury and CAC are reflective of the regenerative capacity with both expressing a functional eNOS. These markers can be integrated in a clinical endothelial phenotype, reflecting the net result between damage from risk factors and endogenous repair capacity with NO representing a central signaling molecule.
Critical issues: Improvements of reproducibility and observer independence of FMD measurements and definitions of relevant EMP and CAC subpopulations warrant further research.
Future directions: Endothelial homeostasis may be a clinical therapeutic target for cardiovascular health maintenance.