Endothelial cells exposed to atheroprotective flow secrete follistatin-like 1 protein which reduces transcytosis and inflammation

Mean Ghim, Kuin T. Pang, Sean A. Burnap, Ferheen Baig, Xiaoke Yin, Mehwish Arshad, Manuel Mayr, Peter D. Weinberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Background and aims: When endothelium is cultured in wells swirled on an orbital shaker, cells at the well centre experience putatively atherogenic flow whereas those near the edge experience putatively atheroprotective flow. Transcellular transport is decreased equally in both regions, consistent with it being reduced by a mediator released from cells in one part of the well and mixed in the swirling medium. Similar effects have been inferred for pro-inflammatory changes. Here we identify the mediator and flow characteristics stimulating its release. Methods and results: Medium conditioned by cells swirled at the edge, but not by cells swirled at the centre or cultured under static conditions, significantly reduced transendothelial transport of a low density lipoprotein (LDL)-sized tracer and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α)-induced activation and translocation of nuclear factor κB (NF-κB), adhesion molecule expression and monocyte adhesion. Inhibiting transcytosis similarly decreased tracer transport. Unbiased proteomics revealed that cells from the swirled edge secreted substantially more follistatin-like 1 (FSTL1) than cells from the swirled centre or from static wells. Exogenous FSTL1 reduced transport of the LDL-sized tracer and of LDL itself, as well as TNF-α-induced adhesion molecule expression. Bone morphogenetic protein 4 (BMP4) increased transport of the LDL-sized tracer and adhesion molecule expression; FSTL1 abolished these effects. Conclusions: Putatively atheroprotective flow stimulates secretion of FSTL1 by cultured endothelial cells. FSTL1 reduces transcellular transport of LDL-sized particles and of LDL itself, and inhibits endothelial activation. If this also occurs in vivo, it may account for the atheroprotective nature of such flow.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-66
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • Atherosclerosis
  • ICAM-1
  • Inflammation
  • Permeability
  • Transverse wall shear stress
  • VCAM-1
  • Wall shear stress


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