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  1. Abstract Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a vasculopathy characterized by sustained elevated pulmonary arterial pressures in which the pulmonary vasculature undergoes significant structural and functional remodeling. To better understand disease mechanisms, in this review article we highlight recent insights into the regulation of pulmonary arterial cells by mechanical cues associated with PAH. Specifically, the mechanobiology of pulmonary arterial endothelial cells (PAECs), smooth muscle cells (PASMCs) and adventitial fibroblasts (PAAFs) has been investigated in vivo, in vitro, and in silico. Increased pulmonary arterial pressure increases vessel wall stress and strain and endothelial fluid shear stress. These mechanical cues promote vasoconstriction and fibrosis that contribute further to hypertension and alter the mechanical milieu and regulation of pulmonary arterial cells.
  2. Pulmonary arterial adventitial fibroblasts (PAAFs) are important regulators of fibrotic vascular remodeling during the progression of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a disease that currently has no effective anti-fibrotic treatments. We conducted in-vitro experiments in PAAFs cultured on hydrogels attached to custom-made equibiaxial stretchers at 10% stretch and substrate stiffnesses representing the mechanical conditions of mild and severe stages of PAH. The expression of collagens α(1)I and α(1)III and elastin messenger RNAs (Col1a1, Col3a1, Eln) were upregulated by increased stretch and substrate stiffness, while lysyl oxidase-like 1 and α-smooth muscle actin messenger RNAs (Loxl1, Acta2) were only significantly upregulated when the cells were grown on matrices with an elevated stiffness representative of mild PAH but not on a stiffness representative of severe PAH. Fibronectin messenger RNA (Fn1) levels were significantly induced by increased substrate stiffness and transiently upregulated by stretch at 4 h, but was not significantly altered by stretch at 24 h. We modified our published computational network model of the signaling pathways that regulate profibrotic gene expression in PAAFs to allow for differential regulation of mechanically-sensitive nodes by stretch and stiffness. When the model was modified so that stiffness activated integrin β3, the Macrophage Stimulating 1 or 2 (MST1\2)more »kinases, angiotensin II (Ang II), transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β), and syndecan-4, and stretch-regulated integrin β3, MST1\2, Ang II, and the transient receptor potential (TRP) channel, the model correctly predicted the upregulation of all six genes by increased stiffness and the observed responses to stretch in five out of six genes, although it could not replicate the non-monotonic effects of stiffness on Loxl1 and Acta2 expression. Blocking Ang II Receptor Type 1 (AT1R) with losartan in-vitro uncovered an interaction between the effects of stretch and stiffness and angiotensin-independent activation of Fn1 expression by stretch in PAAFs grown on 3-kPa matrices. This novel combination of in-vitro and in-silico models of PAAF profibrotic cell signaling in response to altered mechanical conditions may help identify regulators of vascular adventitial remodeling due to changes in stretch and matrix stiffness that occur during the progression of PAH in-vivo.« less