The endothelial surface is a highly flexible signaling hub which is able to sense the hemodynamic forces of the streaming blood. The subsequent mechanosignaling is basically mediated by specific structures, like the endothelial glycocalyx building the top surface layer of endothelial cells as well as mechanosensitive ion channels within the endothelial plasma membrane. The mechanical properties of the endothelial cell surface are characterized by the dynamics of cytoskeletal proteins and play a key role in the process of signal transmission from the outside (lumen of the blood vessel) to the interior of the cell. Thus, the cell mechanics directly interact with the function of mechanosensitive structures and ion channels. To precisely maintain the vascular tone, a coordinated functional interdependency between endothelial cells and vascular smooth muscle cells is necessary. This is given by the fact that mechanosensitive ion channels are expressed in both cell types and that signals are transmitted via autocrine/paracrine mechanisms from layer to layer. Thus, the outer layer of the endothelial cells can be seen as important functional mechanosensitive and reactive cellular compartment. This review aims to describe the known mechanosensitive structures of the vessel building a bridge between the important role of physiological mechanosignaling and the proper vascular function. Since mutations and dysfunction of mechanosensitive proteins are linked to vascular pathologies such as hypertension, they play a potent role in the field of channelopathies and mechanomedicine.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)