Endothelial cell (EC) responsiveness to fluid-mechanical shear stress is essential for normal vascular function and may play a role in the localization of early atherosclerotic lesions. Although ECs are known to be exquisitely sensitive to flow, the precise mechanisms by which ECs sense and respond to shear stress remain incompletely understood. The activation of flow-sensitive ion channels is one of the most rapid endothelial responses to shear stress; therefore, these ion channels have been proposed as candidate flow sensors. A central role for flowsensitive ion channels in EC shear sensing is supported by recent data demonstrating that blocking these ion channels profoundly affects downstream endothelial flow signaling.
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