Biomechanical environments affect the function of cells. In this study we analysed the effects of five mechanical stimuli on the gene expression of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) in mRNA level using real-time PCR. The following loading regimes were applied on HUVECs for 48 h: intermittent (0–5 dyn/cm2, 1 Hz) and uniform (5 dyn/cm2) shear stresses concomitant by 10% intermittent equiaxial stretch (1 Hz), uniform shear stress alone (5 dyn/cm2), and intermittent uniaxial and equiaxial stretches (10%, 1 Hz). A new bioreactor was made to apply uniform/cyclic shear and tensile loadings. Three endothelial suggestive specific genes (vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 (VEGFR-2, also known as FLK-1), von Willebrand Factor (vWF) and vascular endothelial-cadherin (VE-cadherin)), and two smooth muscle genes (α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) and smooth muscle myosin heavy chain (SMMHC)) were chosen for assessment of alteration in gene expression of endothelial cells and transdifferentiation toward smooth cells following load applications.
Shear stress alone enhanced the endothelial gene expression significantly, while stretching alone was identified as a transdifferentiating factor. Cyclic equiaxial stretch contributed less to elevation of smooth muscle genes compared to uniaxial stretch. Cyclic shear stress in comparison to uniform shear stress concurrent with cyclic stretch was more influential on promotion of endothelial genes expression. Influence of different mechanical stimuli on gene expression may open a wider horizon to regulate functions of cell for tissue engineering purposes.