Nanoscale Patterning of Extracellular Matrix Alters Endothelial Function under Shear Stress

Karina H. Nakayama, Vinay N. Surya, Monica Gole, Travis W. Walker, Weiguang Yang, Edwina S. Lai, Maggie A. Ostrowski, Gerald G. Fuller, Alexander R. Dunn, Ngan F. Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


The role of nanotopographical extracellular matrix (ECM) cues in vascular endothelial cell (EC) organization and function is not well-understood, despite the composition of nano- to microscale fibrillar ECMs within blood vessels. Instead, the predominant modulator of EC organization and function is traditionally thought to be hemodynamic shear stress, in which uniform shear stress induces parallel-alignment of ECs with anti-inflammatory function, whereas disturbed flow induces a disorganized configuration with pro-inflammatory function. Since shear stress acts on ECs by applying a mechanical force concomitant with inducing spatial patterning of the cells, we sought to decouple the effects of shear stress using parallel-aligned nanofibrillar collagen films that induce parallel EC alignment prior to stimulation with disturbed flow resulting from spatial wall shear stress gradients. Using real time live-cell imaging, we tracked the alignment, migration trajectories, proliferation, and anti-inflammatory behavior of ECs when they were cultured on parallel-aligned or randomly oriented nanofibrillar films. Intriguingly, ECs cultured on aligned nanofibrillar films remained well-aligned and migrated predominantly along the direction of aligned nanofibrils, despite exposure to shear stress orthogonal to the direction of the aligned nanofibrils. Furthermore, in stark contrast to ECs cultured on randomly oriented films, ECs on aligned nanofibrillar films exposed to disturbed flow had significantly reduced inflammation and proliferation, while maintaining intact intercellular junctions. This work reveals fundamental insights into the importance of nanoscale ECM interactions in the maintenance of endothelial function. Importantly, it provides new insight into how ECs respond to opposing cues derived from nanotopography and mechanical shear force and has strong implications in the design of polymeric conduits and bioengineered tissues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)410-419
Number of pages10
JournalNano Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 13 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Nanofibrillar scaffold
  • collagen
  • endothelial cell
  • inflammation
  • patterning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering


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