The endothelial glycocalyx: recovery, stability and role in electric field-directed cell migration in vitro.
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Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of unnatural death worldwide. Damage to the endothelial glycocalyx impairs endothelial functions and thereafter leads to the development of cardiovascular diseases. Despite this, many issues remain to be explored in our understanding of the metabolism and vasculoprotective potential of the glycocalyx. This study focuses on the recovery and structural stability of the glycocalyx, and its role in electric field-directed cell migration in vitro. The integrity of the glycocalyx is compromised following trypsin treatment during cell passages. Results from our study show that cell seeding density affects the recovery speed of the glycocalyx in the first 48h. Higher cell density results in more rapid recovery of the glycocalyx. Regardless of the initial cell seeding density, a well-developed glycocalyx layer is observed when cell confluence is reached. Micropatterning is used to study effects of the cell shape on the recovery of the glycocalyx. Elliptical patterns have been used to conform endothelial cells to torpedo shapes, mimicking their morphology under a shear flow. More rapid development of the glycocalyx on elliptical cells is observed than that on circular shaped cells during the early stage of recovery. Effects of the actin cytoskeleton on the stability of the glycocalyx are investigated, following our interest in shedding of the glycocalyx in abnormal vascular microenvironment. Rapid depolymerisation of the actin cytoskeleton leads to cell retraction within 10mins, with the glycocalyx preserved on the cell surface. This is also seen during 24h persistent actin disruption under static conditions. However, when endothelial cells are subjected to 24h steady laminar shear stress, the glycocalyx is seen to shift to the downstream of the cell surface in the control group, and with actin depolymerisation, significant shedding of the glycocalyx from the luminal surface of the cell is observed. This happens together with the loss of focal adhesions on the basal membrane. Using a custom designed electric field (EF) chamber, I demonstrate that the cell migration speed increases by 30~40% following 5h of EF exposure. Cells also show preferred movement towards the anode. However, both are abolished after the enzymatic removal of the glycocalyx, indicating that the speedup and the directional cell migration in applied EF require the presence of the glycocalyx. Even distribution of the glycocalyx on the cell surface at the end of the EF stimulation suggests that EF-directed cell migration is not related to the polarization of the glycocalyx on the cell membrane. All these findings provide a better understanding of the glycocalyx, which will help to develop new strategies for protection of the glycocalyx, restoration of endothelial functions and finally prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
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