Pharmacological inhibition of RhoA signaling prevents connective tissue growth factor induction in endothelial cells exposed to non-uniform shear stress


      Shear stress changes play an important role in atheroma formation. This study focussed on atherogenic protein expression under non-uniform shear stress and the pharmacological modulation of shear-related endothelial dysfunction. Bifurcating flow-through cell culture slides were used to expose HUVECs to steady laminar or non-uniform shear stress for 18 h at 10 dyn/cm2. Protein expression was determined by immunofluorescence, and quantified using MetaVue software.
      Laminar shear stress resulted in cell alignment, reduced F-actin fibers, and significant induction of endothelial nitric oxide synthase expression. Under non-uniform shear stress at bifurcations, minor upregulation of adhesion molecules was observed. Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) was significantly downregulated by laminar shear stress and induced in cells exposed to non-uniform shear stress. CTGF upregulation by non-uniform shear stress was RhoA-dependent, because it was almost completely inhibited in cells transfected with dominant negative RhoA-N19, and when cells were treated with 1 μmol/L simvastatin during flow. Pre-incubation of HUVECs with inhibitors of Rho-associated kinase before exposure to flow significantly suppressed the CTGF induction in regions of non-uniform shear stress.
      In conclusion, non-uniform shear stress-dependent CTGF expression requires active RhoA and can be prevented pharmacologically. Interference with shear stress-induced protein expression may inhibit endothelial dysfunction in athero-prone vessel regions.


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