Pattern formation of vascular smooth muscle cells subject to nonuniform fluid shear stress: Mediation by gradient of cell density

Shu Q. Liu*, Dalin Tang, Christopher Tieche, Paul K. Alkema

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations


Smooth muscle cells (SMCs) are organized in various patterns in blood vessels. Whereas straight blood vessels mainly contain circumferentially aligned SMCs, curved blood vessels are composed of axially aligned SMCs in regions with vortex blood flow. The vortex flow-dependent feature of SMC alignment suggests a role for nonuniform fluid shear stress in regulating the pattern formation of SMCs. Here, we demonstrate that, in experimental models with vascular polymer implants designed for the observation of neointima formation and SMC migration under defined fluid shear stress, nonuniform shear stress possibly plays a role in regulating the direction of SMC migration and alignment in the neointima of the vascular implant. It was found that fluid shear stress inhibited cell growth, and the presence of nonuniform shear stress influenced the distribution of total cell density and induced the formation of cell density gradients, which in turn directed SMC migration and alignment. In contrast, uniform fluid shear stress in a control model influenced neither the distribution of total cell density nor the direction of SMC migration and alignment. In both the uniform and nonuniform shear models, the gradient of total cell density was consistent with the alignment of SMCs. These observations suggest that nonuniform shear stress may regulate the pattern formation of SMCs, possibly via mediating the gradient of cell density in the neointima of vascular polymer implants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H1072-H1080
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number3 54-3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2003



  • Cell alignment
  • Cell migration
  • Cell proliferation
  • Vascular morphogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)

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