Although several potential mechanosensors/mechanotransducers have been proposed, the precise mechanisms by which ECs sense and respond to mechanical forces and translate them into biochemical signals remains unclear. Here, we report that two major ligand-dependent tyrosine autophosphorylation sites of VEGFR2, Y1175 and Y1214, are rapidly activated by shear stress in human coronary artery endothelial cells (HCAECs). Neutralizing antibody against VEGFR2 not only abrogates flow-induced phosphorylation of these tyrosine residues, but also has a marked inhibitory effect on downstream eNOS activation. In situ proximity ligation assay revealed that VEGF and VEGFR2 are closely associated in HCAECs, and more importantly, this association is increased with flow. Finally, we show that flow-induced VEGFR2 activation is attenuated in the presence of the broad spectrum matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) inhibitor, GM6001. Taken together, our results suggest that a ligand-dependent mechanism involving the activity of MMPs plays a key role in the early, shear stress-induced activation of VEGFR2.
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