Transcriptional drifts associated with environmental changes in endothelial cells

Elife. 2023 Mar 27:12:e81370. doi: 10.7554/eLife.81370.


Environmental cues, such as physical forces and heterotypic cell interactions play a critical role in cell function, yet their collective contributions to transcriptional changes are unclear. Focusing on human endothelial cells, we performed broad individual sample analysis to identify transcriptional drifts associated with environmental changes that were independent of genetic background. Global gene expression profiling by RNA sequencing and protein expression by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry directed proteomics distinguished endothelial cells in vivo from genetically matched culture (in vitro) samples. Over 43% of the transcriptome was significantly changed by the in vitro environment. Subjecting cultured cells to long-term shear stress significantly rescued the expression of approximately 17% of genes. Inclusion of heterotypic interactions by co-culture of endothelial cells with smooth muscle cells normalized approximately 9% of the original in vivo signature. We also identified novel flow dependent genes, as well as genes that necessitate heterotypic cell interactions to mimic the in vivo transcriptome. Our findings highlight specific genes and pathways that rely on contextual information for adequate expression from those that are agnostic of such environmental cues.

Keywords: cell biology; developmental biology; endothelial cell; human; molecular biology; vascular biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Endothelial Cells* / metabolism
  • Endothelium
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Humans

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE158081
  • GEO/GSE156939