Stiff substrates enhance monocytic cell capture through E-selectin but not P-selectin
The stiffening of blood vessel walls is associated with inflammatory diseases, including atherosclerosis, diabetes, and obesity. These diseases are driven by the excessive recruitment of inflammatory leukocytes out of the bloodstream and into tissues, but whether vascular stiffening plays a direct role in this process is not clear. In this study, we investigated the possibility that leukocyte capture from blood flow is enhanced on stiffer substrates. We modeled blood flow in vitro by perfusing monocytic cells over hydrogels that matched the stiffness of healthy and diseased arteries. The hydrogels were coated with either E-selectin or P-selectin, which are the endothelial adhesion proteins known to mediate immune cell capture from flow. Interestingly, we discovered that cell attachment to P-selectin coated gels was not dependent on substrate stiffness, while attachment through E-selectin was enhanced on stiffer gels. Specifically we found that on E-selectin coated gels, cells attached in greater numbers, remained attached for longer time periods, and rolled more slowly on stiff gels than soft gels. These results suggest that vascular stiffening could promote leukocyte adhesion to vessel walls where E-selectin is expressed, but may have less of an effect when P-selectin is also present.