Role of Shear Stress in the Differential Regulation of Endothelial Cathepsins and Cystatin C
Platt, Manu Omar
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The importance of shear stress in vascular biology and pathophysiology has been highlighted by the focal development patterns of atherosclerosis, abdominal aortic aneurysms, and heart valve disease in regions exposed to disturbed flow leading to low or oscillatory shear stress at the wall of the blood vessel or the surface of the valve leaflet. The novel and significant finding of this study is that mouse aortic endothelial cell exposure to pro-atherogenic oscillatory shear stress (OS) (+/- 5 dynes/cm2) increased their production of cathepsins, the family of lysosomal cysteine proteases that are potent elastases and collagenases leading to protease degradation and remodeling of the extracellular matrix structural components. Conversely, atheroprotective unidirectional laminar shear stress (LS) (15 dynes/cm2) decreased elastase and gelatinase activities of endothelial cells through a shear stress mediated reduction in cathepsins K, L, and S activity. Their endogenous inhibitor, cystatin C, was found to be inversely regulated by shear stress; LS increased its secretion by endothelial cells while OS decreased it. Binding of free cystatin C in the conditioned media to carboxymethylated papain coated agarose beads led to an increase in cathepsin activity since the available cathepsin was not inhibited. To verify these findings in human samples, immunohistochemical analysis of cystatin C and cathepsin K was performed on human coronary arteries. Cathepsin K stained strongly in the endothelial layer of vessels with degraded internal elastic lamina while cystatin C staining intensity was strongest overlying minimally diseased vessels. Additional roles for cathepsins K, L, and S were found in endothelial cell alignment in response to unidirectional laminar shear stress, endothelial cell migration, and programmed cell death. We conclude that there is an inverse regulation of cathepsins and cystatin C in endothelial cells by LS and OS and identify the cathepsin family of proteases as potential targets for therapeutic intervention of cardiovascular disease development at sites of disturbed flow.