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Vascular endothelial cells in vivo are exposed to multiple biophysical cues provided by the basement membrane, a specialized extracellular matrix through which vascular endothelial cells are attached to the underlying stroma. The importance of biophysical cues has been widely reported, but the signaling pathways that mediate cellular recognition and response to these cues remain poorly understood. Anisotropic topographically patterned substrates with nano- through microscale feature dimensions were fabricated to investigate cellular responses to topographic cues. The present study focuses on early events following exposure of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) to these patterned substrates. In serum-free medium and on substrates without protein coating, HUVECs oriented parallel to the long axis of underlying ridges in as little as 30 min. Immunocytochemistry showed clear differences in the localization of the focal adhesion proteins Src, p130Cas, and focal adhesion kinase (FAK) in HUVECs cultured on topographically patterned surfaces and on planar surfaces, suggesting involvement of these proteins in mediating the response to topographic features. Knockdown experiments demonstrated that FAK was not necessary for HUVEC alignment in response to topographic cues, although FAK knockdown did modulate HUVEC migration. These data identify key events early in the cellular response to biophysical stimuli.


Britta Dreier, Joshua Z Gasiorowski, Joshua T Morgan, Paul F Nealey, Paul Russell, Christopher J Murphy. Early responses of vascular endothelial cells to topographic cues. American journal of physiology. Cell physiology. 2013 Aug 1;305(3):C290-8

PMID: 23703527

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