Journal article

Model for the alignment of actin filaments in endothelial cells subjected to fluid shear stress

Cultured vascular endothelial cells undergo significant morphological changes when subjected to sustained fluid shear stress. The cells elongate and align in the direction of applied flow. Accompanying this shape change is a reorganization at the intracellular level. The cytoskeletal actin filaments reorient in the direction of the cells' long axis. How this external stimulus is transmitted to the endothelial cytoskeleton still remains unclear. In this article, we present a theoretical model accounting for the cytoskeletal reorganization under the influence of fluid shear stress. We develop a system of integro-partial-differential equations describing the dynamics of actin filaments, the actin-binding proteins, and the drift of transmembrane proteins due to the fluid shear forces applied on the plasma membrane. Numerical simulations of the equations show that under certain conditions, initially randomly oriented cytoskeletal actin filaments reorient in structures parallel to the externally applied fluid shear forces. Thus, the model suggests a mechanism by which shear forces acting on the cell membrane can be transmitted to the entire cytoskeleton via molecular interactions alone.


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