Mechanotransduction plays a crucial role in vascular biology. One example of this is the local regulation of vascular resistance via flow-mediated dilation (FMD). Impairment of this process is a hallmark of endothelial dysfunction and a precursor to a wide array of vascular diseases, such as hypertension and atherosclerosis. Yet the molecules responsible for sensing flow (shear stress) within endothelial cells remain largely unknown. We designed a 384-well screening system that applies shear stress on cultured cells. We identified a mechanosensitive cell line that exhibits shear stress-activated calcium transients, screened a focused RNAi library, and identified GPR68 as necessary and sufficient for shear stress responses. GPR68 is expressed in endothelial cells of small-diameter (resistance) arteries. Importantly, Gpr68-deficient mice display markedly impaired acute FMD and chronic flow-mediated outward remodeling in mesenteric arterioles. Therefore, GPR68 is an essential flow sensor in arteriolar endothelium and is a critical signaling component in cardiovascular pathophysiology.
Keywords: GPCR; blood flow; mechanosensation; mechanotransduction; outward remodeling; shear stress; vascular biology; vasodilation.
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