Mechanosensing at the vascular interface

John M. Tarbell, Scott I. Simon, Fitz Roy E Curry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Mammals are endowed with a complex set of mechanisms that sensemechanical forces imparted by blood flow to endothelial cells (ECs), smooth muscle cells, and circulating blood cells to elicit biochemical responses through a process referred to as mechanotransduction. These biochemical responses are critical for a host of other responses, including regulation of blood pressure, control of vascular permeability for maintaining adequate perfusion of tissues, and control of leukocyte recruitment during immunosurveillance and inflammation. This review focuses on the role of the endothelial surface proteoglycan/glycoprotein layer-the glycocalyx (GCX)-that lines all blood vessel walls and is an agent in mechanotransduction and the modulation of blood cell interactions with the EC surface. We first discuss the biochemical composition and ultrastructure of the GCX, highlighting recent developments that reveal gaps in our understanding of the relationship between composition and spatial organization. We then consider the roles of the GCX in mechanotransduction and in vascular permeability control and review the prominent interaction of plasma-borne sphingosine-1 phosphate (S1P), which has been shown to regulate both the composition of the GCX and the endothelial junctions. Finally, we consider the association of GCX degradation with inflammation and vascular disease and end with a final section on future research directions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)505-532
Number of pages28
JournalAnnual Review of Biomedical Engineering
StatePublished - 2014


  • endothelium
  • glycocalyx
  • glycoprotein
  • proteoglycan
  • red cell
  • shear stress
  • sphingosine-1 phosphate
  • vascular disease
  • vascular permeability
  • white cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Medicine(all)


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