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Gene Expression Analysis of Endothelial Cells Exposed to Shear Stress Using Multiple Parallel-plate Flow Chambers

Published: October 21st, 2018



1Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto, 2Keenan Research Centre in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael's Hospital, 3Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University of Toronto, 4Department of Medicine, University of Toronto

Here, a workflow for the culture and gene expression analysis of endothelial cells under fluid shear stress is presented. Included is a physical arrangement for simultaneously housing and monitoring multiple flow chambers in a controlled environment and the use of an exogenous reference RNA for quantitative PCR.

We describe a workflow for the analysis of gene expression from endothelial cells subject to a steady laminar flow using multiple monitored parallel-plate flow chambers. Endothelial cells form the inner cellular lining of blood vessels and are chronically exposed to the frictional force of blood flow called shear stress. Under physiological conditions, endothelial cells function in the presence of various shear stress conditions. Thus, the application of shear stress conditions in in vitro models can provide greater insight into endothelial responses in vivo. The parallel-plate flow chamber previously published by Lane et al.9 is adapted to study endothelial gene regulation in the presence and absence of steady (non-pulsatile) laminar flow. Key adaptations in the set-up for laminar flow as presented here include a large, dedicated environment to house concurrent flow circuits, the monitoring of flow rates in real-time, and the inclusion of an exogenous reference RNA for the normalization of quantitative real-time PCR data. To assess multiple treatments/conditions with the application of shear stress, multiple flow circuits and pumps are used simultaneously within the same heated and humidified incubator. The flow rate of each flow circuit is measured continuously in real-time to standardize shear stress conditions throughout the experiments. Because these experiments have multiple conditions, we also use an exogenous reference RNA that is spiked-in at the time of RNA extraction for the normalization of RNA extraction and first-strand cDNA synthesis efficiencies. These steps minimize the variability between samples. This strategy is employed in our pipeline for the gene expression analysis with shear stress experiments using the parallel-plate flow chamber, but parts of this strategy, such as the exogenous reference RNA spike-in, can easily and cost-effectively be used for other applications.

Vascular endothelial cells form the inner cellular lining of blood vessels in the closed cardiovascular system of higher species. They form the interface between the blood and tissues and are characterized by luminal and abluminal surfaces. The endothelium is a diverse, active, and adaptive system that regulates blood flow, nutrient trafficking, immunity, and the growth of new blood vessels1. In the body, endothelial cells normally exist in an environment where they are exposed to the frictional force of circulation, shear stress2. Shear stress is an important regulator of endothelial cell gene expression.css-f1q1l5{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:flex-end;-webkit-box-align:flex-end;-ms-flex-align:flex-end;align-items:flex-end;background-image:linear-gradient(180deg, rgba(255, 255, 255, 0) 0%, rgba(255, 255, 255, 0.8) 40%, rgba(255, 255, 255, 1) 100%);width:100%;height:100%;position:absolute;bottom:0px;left:0px;font-size:var(--chakra-fontSizes-lg);color:#676B82;}

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1. Preparation of Exogenous Reference RNA

NOTE: Choose an exogenous reference RNA that does not exist in the species or model of interest. For mammalian systems, firefly luciferase RNA may be used.

  1. Linearization of exogenous reference RNA plasmid
    1. Prepare exogenous reference RNA at least 48 h prior to the anticipated RNA extraction. Obtain or manufacture a cDNA clone of the chosen exogenous reference RNA, such as a firefly luciferase cDNA clone in a plas.......

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Successful linearization of luciferase plasmid using restriction enzymes was confirmed by running digested products on an agarose gel (Figure 1). The size of the linearized product was confirmed using DNA ladders and by comparison with uncut plasmid.

We have adapted the parallel-plate flow chamber set-up from Lane et al.9 for experiments that require multiple conditi.......

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Shear stress is a physiologic condition that modulates endothelial function, in part, by affecting steady-state gene expression2,5. Models of gene regulation in various shear stress conditions will contribute to a greater understanding of endothelial function. This pragmatic workflow includes a flow circuit using a parallel-plate flow chamber adapted from Lane et al.9 and represents laminar, non-pulsatile flow. The overall set-up .......

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This work was supported by CIHR MOP 142307 to P.A.M. H.S.J.M. is a recipient of a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Training Program in Regenerative Medicine Fellowship. H.S.J.M., A.N.S., K.H.K., and M.K.D. are recipients of the Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarships in the Science and Technology.


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
0.05% Trypsin-EDTA gibco 25300-062
10 mL Syringe BD 302995
10 mm2 Culture Dish Sarstedt 83.3902
30 mL Syringe BD 302832
4-Way Stopcocks Discofix D500
Aluminum foil
BEACH Darwin Chambers Company MN: HO85, SN: 4947549
Cell Scrapers
CO2 Meter BioSphenix, Ltd. MN: P120, SN: 0342
CO2 Sensor BioSphenix, Ltd. MN: C700, SN: 52852
Distilled water gibco 15230-170
Dulbecco's phosphate-buffered saline (DPBS) -/- gibco 14190-144
Endothelial Cell Growth Medium 2 Promo Cell C-22011
Endothelial Cell Growth Medium 2 Supplement Mix Promo Cell C-39216
Fibronectin (pure) Sigma-Aldrich 11051407001
Filter (0.20 um) Sarstedt 83.1826.001
Flow Dampener and Cap U of T glass blowing shop
Flow Meter: 400 Series Console Transonic Scisense Inc. T402
Flow Meter: 400 Series Tubing Transonic Scisense Inc. TS410
Flow Reservoir and Cap U of T glass blowing shop
Flow Sensor Transonic Scisense Inc. ME4PXL
Isotemp 737F Oven Fisher Scientific FI-737F
J cloth J cloth
Microscope Slide (25 x 75 x 1 mm) Fisherfinest 12-544-4
Paper sterilization pouch Cardinal Health 92713
Pump (Masterflex L/S Economy Drive) Cole-Parmer 7554-90
Pump Head (Masterflex L/S Easy Load) Cole-Parmer 7518-00
Rectangular 4 Well Dish Thermo Scientific 267061
Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Masterflex C-Flex L/S 25 Soft Tubing Cole-Parmer 06424-25
Masterflex C-Flex L/S 14 Soft Tubing Cole-Parmer 06424-14
Masterflex C-Flex L/S 16 Soft Tubing Cole-Parmer 06424-16
Masterflex PharMed BPT L/S 13 Hard Tubing Cole-Parmer 06508-13
Masterflex PharMed BPT L/S 14 Hard Tubing Cole-Parmer 06508-14
Name Company Catalog Number Comments
3/16" Male Luer Cole-Parmer 45518-08 For #25 tubing
1/8" Male Luer Cole-Parmer 30800-24 For #16 tubing
1/8" Female Luer Cole-Parmer 30800-08 For #16 tubing
1/16" Male Luer Cole-Parmer 45518-00 For #14 tubing
1/16" Female Luer Cole-Parmer 45508-00 For #14 tubing
Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Knockdown reagents
Oligofectamine Reagent Invitrogen 12252-011
Opti-MEM I Reduced Serum Medium gibco 31985-070
Name Company Catalog Number Comments
In vitro transcription
Generuler 1kb+ DNA ladder Thermo Scientific SM1331
MEGAclear Kit Ambion AM1908
mMESSSEGE mMACHINE SP6 Transcription Kit Ambion AM1340
pSP-luc+ Promega E4471
Supercoiled DNA Ladder New England BioLabs Inc. N0472S
UltraPure Agarose Invitrogen 16500-500
UltraPure Ethidium Bromide Invitrogen 15585011
XhoI Restriction Enzyme New England BioLabs Inc. R0146S
Name Company Catalog Number Comments
RNA extraction
Beta-mercaptoethanol Sigma M3148-100mL
RNeasy Mini Kit Qiagen 74104

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