Endothelial cells are subjected to fluid mechanical forces which accompany blood flow. These cells become elongated and orient their long axes parallel to the direction of shear stress when the cultured cells are subjected to flow in an in vitro circulatory system. When the substrate is compliant and cyclically deformed, to simulate effects of pressure in the vasculature, the cells elongate an orient perpendicular to the axis of deformation. Cell shape changes are reflected in the alignment of microtubule networks. The systems described provide tools for assessing the individual roles of shear stress, pressure, and mechanical strain on vascular cell structure and function.