Single cell morphological metrics and cytoskeletal alignment regulate VCAM-1 protein expression

Meghan E. Fallon, Monica T. Hinds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In the initial stages of atherosclerosis, vascular adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) is a surface protein that mediates leukocyte adhesion to the endothelium's luminal surface. VCAM-1 expression is upregulated on endothelial cells (ECs) under pro-inflammatory conditions and is known to be modulated by fluid shear stress (FSS). High, pulsatile FSS induces endothelial elongation and cytoskeletal alignment and downregulates pro-inflammatory induced VCAM-1 expression, which is associated with an athero-protective EC phenotype. In contrast, athero-prone ECs under low, oscillatory FSS fail to elongate and maintain a cobblestone morphology with random cytoskeletal alignment, while VCAM-1 expression is upregulated. Whether EC shape and cytoskeletal alignment play a role in the regulation of VCAM-1 protein expression independent of FSS has not been previously determined. The goal of this study was to determine the effect of EC morphology, specifically cell elongation and alignment, and cytoskeletal alignment on VCAM-1 protein expression using topographical micropatterning of an endothelial monolayer and single cell image analysis techniques. Elongated ECs with an aligned cytoskeleton significantly downregulated VCAM-1 protein expression in the absence of FSS compared to planar controls. In addition, linear correlations between morphological metrics and protein expression showed that actin alignment had a significantly stronger effect on VCAM-1 expression than cell elongation. Functionally, monocytic U937 cells statically adhered less on micropatterns compared to planar substrates, in a VCAM-1 dependent manner. Therefore, endothelial cellular elongation and alignment as well as cytoskeletal alignment regulate VCAM-1 protein expression and immunogenic functions to produce a less inflammatory phenotype in the absence of hemodynamic effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-167
Number of pages8
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
StatePublished - May 28 2021


  • Cytoskeleton
  • Endothelial cell
  • Inflammation
  • Micropattern
  • Vascular cell adhesion molecule-1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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