Pressure-dependent regulation of Ca2+ signalling in the vascular endothelium

J Physiol. 2015 Dec 15;593(24):5231-53. doi: 10.1113/JP271157. Epub 2015 Dec 7.


Key points: Increased pressure suppresses endothelial control of vascular tone but it remains uncertain (1) how pressure is sensed by the endothelium and (2) how the vascular response is inhibited. This study used a novel imaging method to study large numbers of endothelial cells in arteries that were in a physiological configuration and held at normal blood pressures. Increased pressure suppressed endothelial IP3 -mediated Ca(2+) signals. Pressure modulated endothelial cell shape. The changes in cell shape may alter endothelial Ca(2+) signals by modulating the diffusive environment for Ca(2+) near IP3 receptors. Endothelial pressure-dependent mechanosensing may occur without a requirement for a conventional molecular mechanoreceptor.

Abstract: The endothelium is an interconnected network upon which haemodynamic mechanical forces act to control vascular tone and remodelling in disease. Ca(2+) signalling is central to the endothelium's mechanotransduction and networked activity. However, challenges in imaging Ca(2+) in large numbers of endothelial cells under conditions that preserve the intact physical configuration of pressurized arteries have limited progress in understanding how pressure-dependent mechanical forces alter networked Ca(2+) signalling. We developed a miniature wide-field, gradient-index (GRIN) optical probe designed to fit inside an intact pressurized artery that permitted Ca(2+) signals to be imaged with subcellular resolution in a large number (∼200) of naturally connected endothelial cells at various pressures. Chemical (acetylcholine) activation triggered spatiotemporally complex, propagating inositol trisphosphate (IP3 )-mediated Ca(2+) waves that originated in clusters of cells and progressed from there across the endothelium. Mechanical stimulation of the artery, by increased intraluminal pressure, flattened the endothelial cells and suppressed IP3 -mediated Ca(2+) signals in all activated cells. By computationally modelling Ca(2+) release, endothelial shape changes were shown to alter the geometry of the Ca(2+) diffusive environment near IP3 receptor microdomains to limit IP3 -mediated Ca(2+) signals as pressure increased. Changes in cell shape produce a geometric microdomain regulation of IP3 -mediated Ca(2+) signalling to explain macroscopic pressure-dependent, endothelial mechanosensing without the need for a conventional mechanoreceptor. The suppression of IP3 -mediated Ca(2+) signalling may explain the decrease in endothelial activity as pressure increases. GRIN imaging provides a convenient method that gives access to hundreds of endothelial cells in intact arteries in physiological configuration.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Calcium Signaling*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiology
  • Male
  • Optical Imaging / instrumentation
  • Optical Imaging / methods
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley