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Sci. Signal., 7 October 2008
Vol. 1, Issue 40, p. pt8
[DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.140pt8]


The Endothelial Glycocalyx: A Mechano-Sensor and -Transducer

John M. Tarbell1* and Eno E. Ebong1,2

1 Department of Biomedical Engineering, The City College of New York, New York, NY, USA.
2 Department of Neuroscience, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, NY, USA.

A presentation from the Experimental Biology 2008 Meeting, San Diego, CA, USA, 5 to 9 April 2008.

Abstract: The apical surface of endothelial cells (ECs) is decorated with various membrane-bound macromolecules that constitute the glycocalyx (GCX). As the most apical structure on the EC, the GCX senses the force (shear stress) of flowing blood and transmits the force through the cytoskeleton to sites where transduction of force to biochemical response (mechanotransduction) may occur. In this presentation, we review the structure of the GCX and experiments that demonstrate its role in mechanotransduction and vascular remodeling. Experiments with enzymes that degrade specific glycosaminoglycan components showed that the GCX mediates the shear-induced production of nitric oxide, a central process in cardiovascular control, whereas the same enzyme treatments do not affect shear-induced production of prostacyclin, another hallmark of EC mechanotransduction. These experiments reinforce the concept of distributed sites of mechanotransduction in EC. The characteristic remodeling of the EC cytoskeleton and intercellular junctions in response to shear stress are dependent on the GCX as well, and we present the experiments and theories that support the role of the GCX in these processes. The GCX is a fascinating structure whose role in EC function is only beginning to be appreciated.

* Presenter and corresponding author. E-mail: tarbell{at}

Citation: J. M. Tarbell, E. E. Ebong, The Endothelial Glycocalyx: A Mechano-Sensor and -Transducer. Sci. Signal. 1, pt8 (2008).

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