Time course changes in the cell shape and in the patterns of microfilament distribution were analyzed quantitatively using cultured porcine aortic endothelial cell monolayers before and after a shear flow exposure. Geometrical parameters of the cell and of the microfilament were measured on fluorescent photomicrographs of the cells stained with rhodamine-phalloidin. After the shear flow exposure (20 dyn cm-2, 0-24 h), the endothelial cells on glass were elongated and oriented to the direction of the flow. Under the no-flow condition, F-actin filaments were mainly localized at the periphery of the cell, although some filaments were seen in the more central portion. The angles of the filaments were randomly distributed. After 3 h, the stress fiber-like structure of an F-actin bundle was formed in the central part of the cells, and these filaments were oriented to the direction of the flow. The degree of orientation increased as the time of exposure to shear stress became longer. This change in F-actin preceded cell elongation and orientation; these changes were statistically significant only after 6 h. After 24 h, peripheral filaments were again observed, and the fluorescence intensity of rhodamine-phalloidin-stained cells was enhanced. These findings suggest that the redistribution of F-actin filaments is one of the early cellular responses to the onset of shear stress and that it is one of the most important factors controlling cell elongation and orientation to the direction of the flow.
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