Finite-element stress analysis of a multicomponent model of sheared and focally-adhered endothelial cells

Michael C. Ferko, Amit Bhatnagar, Mariana B. Garcia, Peter J. Butler

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62 Scopus citations


Hemodynamic forces applied at the apical surface of vascular endothelial cells may be redistributed to and amplified at remote intracellular organelles and protein complexes where they are transduced to biochemical signals. In this study we sought to quantify the effects of cellular material inhomogeneities and discrete attachment points on intracellular stresses resulting from physiological fluid flow. Steady-state shear- and magnetic bead-induced stress, strain, and displacement distributions were determined from finite-element stress analysis of a cell-specific, multicomponent elastic continuum model developed from multimodal fluorescence images of confluent endothelial cell (EC) monolayers and their nuclei. Focal adhesion locations and areas were determined from quantitative total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy and verified using green fluorescence protein-focal adhesion kinase (GFP-FAK). The model predicts that shear stress induces small heterogeneous deformations of the endothelial cell cytoplasm on the order of <100 nm. However, strain and stress were amplified 10-100-fold over apical values in and around the high-modulus nucleus and near focal adhesions (FAs) and stress distributions depended on flow direction. The presence of a 0.4 μm glycocalyx was predicted to increase intracellular stresses by ∼ 2-fold. The model of magnetic bead twisting rheometry also predicted heterogeneous stress, strain, and displacement fields resulting from material heterogeneities and FAs. Thus, large differences in moduli between the nucleus and cytoplasm and the juxtaposition of constrained regions (e.g. FAs) and unattached regions provide two mechanisms of stress amplification in sheared endothelial cells. Such phenomena may play a role in subcellular localization of early mechanotransduction events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)208-223
Number of pages16
JournalAnnals of Biomedical Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biomedical Engineering


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