Macrorheology and adaptive microrheology of endothelial cells subjected to fluid shear stress

Jhanvi H. Dangaria, Peter J. Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Vascular endothelial cells (ECs) respond to temporal and spatial characteristics of hemodynamic forces by alterations in their adhesiveness to leukocytes, secretion of vasodilators, and permeability to blood-borne constituents. These physiological and pathophysiological changes are tied to adaptation of cell mechanics and mechanotransduction, the process by which cells convert forces to intracellular biochemical signals. The exact time scales of these mechanical adaptations, however, remain unknown. We used particle-tracking microrheology to study adaptive changes in intracellular mechanics in response to a step change in fluid shear stress, which simulates both rapid temporal and steady features of hemodynamic forces. Results indicate that ECs become significantly more compliant as early as 30 s after a step change in shear stress from 0 to 10 dyn/cm2 followed by recovery of viscoelastic parameters within 4 min of shearing, even though shear stress was maintained. After ECs were sheared for 5 min, return of shear stress to 0 dyn/cm2 in a stepwise manner did not result in any further rheological adaptation. Average vesicle displacements were used to determine time-dependent cell deformation and macrorheological parameters by fitting creep function to a linear viscoelastic liquid model. Characteristic time and magnitude for shear-induced deformation were 3 s and 50 nm, respectively. We conclude that ECs rapidly adapt their mechanical properties in response to shear stress, and we provide the first macrorheological parameters for time-dependent deformations of ECs to a physiological forcing function. Such studies provide insight into pathologies such as atherosclerosis, which may find their origins in EC mechanics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)C1568-C1575
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology


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