Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and secondary pulmonary embolism cause approximately 100,000 deaths per year in the United States. Physical immobility is the most significant risk factor for DVT, but a molecular and cellular basis for this link has not been defined. We found that the endothelial cells surrounding the venous valve, where DVTs originate, express high levels of FOXC2 and PROX1, transcription factors known to be activated by oscillatory shear stress. The perivalvular venous endothelial cells exhibited a powerful antithrombotic phenotype characterized by low levels of the prothrombotic proteins vWF, P-selectin, and ICAM1 and high levels of the antithrombotic proteins thrombomodulin (THBD), endothelial protein C receptor (EPCR), and tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI). The perivalvular antithrombotic phenotype was lost following genetic deletion of FOXC2 or femoral artery ligation to reduce venous flow in mice, and at the site of origin of human DVT associated with fatal pulmonary embolism. Oscillatory blood flow was detected at perivalvular sites in human veins following muscular activity, but not in the immobile state or after activation of an intermittent compression device designed to prevent DVT. These findings support a mechanism of DVT pathogenesis in which loss of muscular activity results in loss of oscillatory shear-dependent transcriptional and antithrombotic phenotypes in perivalvular venous endothelial cells, and suggest that prevention of DVT and pulmonary embolism may be improved by mechanical devices specifically designed to restore perivalvular oscillatory flow.
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