Shear type and magnitude affect aortic valve endothelial cell morphology, orientation, and differentiation

Nandini Deb, Mir S. Ali, Ashley Mathews, Ya Wen Chang, Carla M.R. Lacerda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Valvular endothelial cells line the outer layer of heart valves and can withstand shear forces caused by blood flow. In contrast to vascular endothelial cells, there is limited amount of research over valvular endothelial cells. For this reason, the exact physiologic behavior of valvular endothelial cells is unclear. Prior studies have concluded that valvular endothelial cells align perpendicularly to the direction of blood flow, while vascular endothelial cells align parallel to blood flow. Other studies have suggested that different ranges of shear stress uniquely impact the behavior of valvular endothelial cells. The goal of this study was to characterize the response of valvular endothelial cell under different types, magnitudes, and durations of shear stress. In this work, the results demonstrated that with increased shear rate and duration of exposure, valvular endothelial cells no longer possessed the traditional cuboidal morphology. Instead through the change in cell circularity and aspect ratio, valvular endothelial cells aligned in an organized manner. In addition, different forms of shear exposure caused the area and circularity of valvular endothelial cells to decrease while inducing mesenchymal transformation validated through αSMA and TGFβ1 expression. This is the first investigation showing that valvular endothelial cells alignment is not as straightforward as once thought (perpendicular to flow). Different types and magnitudes of shear induce different local behaviors. This is also the first demonstration of valvular endothelial cells undergoing EndMT without chemical inducers on a soft surface in vitro. Findings from this study provide insights to understanding the pathophysiology of valvular endothelial cells which can potentially propel future artificial engineered heart valves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2278-2289
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Biology and Medicine
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Aortic valve
  • endothelial cells
  • endothelial to mesenchymal transformation
  • morphology
  • protein expression
  • shear stress


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