Annals of Biomedical Engineering

, Volume 38, Issue 5, pp 1880–1892 | Cite as

HUVEC ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 Synthesis in Response to Potentially Athero-Prone and Athero-Protective Mechanical and Nicotine Chemical Stimuli

  • Liam T. BreenEmail author
  • Peter E. McHugh
  • Bruce P. Murphy


Previous mechano-transduction studies have investigated the endothelial cell (EC) morphological response to mechanical stimuli; generally consisting of a wall shear stress (WSS) and a cyclic tensile hoop strain (THS). More recent studies have investigated the EC biochemical response (intercellular adhesion molecule, ICAM-1, and vascular cellular adhesion molecule, VCAM-1, expression) to idealized mechanical stimuli. However, current literature is lacking in the area of EC biochemical response to combinations of physiological WSS and THS mechanical stimuli. The objective of this study is to investigate the EC response to physiological WSS and THS stimuli and to compare this response to that of ECs exposed to idealized steady WSS and cyclic THS of the same magnitudes. This study also investigated the EC response to a nicotine chemical stimulus combined with a suspected athero-prone physiological mechanical stimulus. A bioreactor was designed to apply a range of combinations of physiological WSS and THS waveforms. The bioreactor was calibrated and validated using computational fluid dynamics and video extensometry techniques. The bioreactor was used to investigated the biochemical response exhibited by human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) exposed to physiological athero-protective (first bioreactor test case, pulsatile WSS combined with pulsatile THS) and athero-prone (second bioreactor test case, oscillating WSS combined with pulsatile THS) mechanical environments. The final testing environment (third bioreactor test case) combined a nicotine chemical stimulus with the mechanical stimuli of the second bioreactor test case. In first and second bioreactor test cases, the addition of a pulsatile THS to the WSS resulted in opposite trends of ICAM-1 down-regulation and up-regulation, respectively. This outcome suggests that the effect of the additional pulsatile THS depends on the state of the applied WSS waveform. Similarly, in first and second bioreactor test cases, the addition of a pulsatile THS to the WSS resulted in a VCAM-1 up-regulation. However, it has been previously shown that the addition of a cyclic THS to a high- or low-steady WSS resulted in a VCAM-1 down-regulation, indicating that the EC response to idealized mechanical stimuli (steady WSS and cyclic THS) is not comparable to physiological mechanical stimuli (unsteady WSS and pulsatile THS), even though in both situations the average magnitude of WSS and THS applied were similar. In third bioreactor test case, a nicotine chemical stimulus induced a substantial VCAM-1 up-regulation and a moderate ICAM-1 up-regulation. The addition of the mechanical stimuli of the second bioreactors test case resulted in a greater VCAM-1 up-regulation than what was expected, considering the observations of the previous second bioreactor test case alone. This study found that the EC biochemical response to physiological mechanical stimuli is not comparable to the previously observed EC response to idealized mechanical stimuli, even though in both environments the mechanical stimuli were of a similar magnitude. Also, the level of VCAM-1 expressed by the nicotine stimulated ECs showed an elevated level of sensitivity to the athero-prone mechanical stimuli.


Cell mechanotransduction Wall shear stress Tensile hoop stretch ICAM-1 VCAM-1 Nicotine 



The authors acknowledge support from the Program for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI), administered by the Higher Education Authority (HEA). The project was carried out at the National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science (NCBES), National University of Ireland, Galway, in association with University of Limerick, and Institute of Technology, Sligo. L. Breen acknowledges funding from the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET) under the Embark Initiative Postgraduate Research Scholarship Scheme.


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Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liam T. Breen
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Peter E. McHugh
    • 1
    • 2
  • Bruce P. Murphy
    • 1
  1. 1.National Centre for Biomedical Engineering ScienceNational University of Ireland GalwayGalwayIreland
  2. 2.Department of Mechanical and Biomedical EngineeringNational University of IrelandGalwayIreland
  3. 3.Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing EngineeringParsons Building, Trinity College DublinDublin 2Ireland

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