NYMC Faculty Publications

Biomechanical Properties of Endothelial Glycocalyx: An Imperfect Pendulum

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Matrix Biology Plus

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Endothelial glycocalyx plays a crucial role in hemodynamics in health and disease, yet studying it is met by multiple technical hindrances. We attempted to outline our views on some biomechanical properties of endothelial glycocalyx, which are potentially amenable to mathematical modeling. We start with the null-hypothesis ascribing to glycocalyx the properties of a pendulum and reject this hypothesis on the grounds of multiple obstacles for pendulum behavior, such as rich decoration with flexible negatively charged side-chains, variable length and density, fluid fixation to the plasma membrane. We next analyze the current views on membrane attachments to the cortical actin web, its pulsatile contraction-relaxation cycles which rebound to the changes in tension of the plasma membrane. Based on this, we consider the outside-in signaling, the basis for mechanotransduction, and the dampening action of the inside-out signaling. The aperiodic oscillatory motions of glycocalyx and cortical actin web underlie our prediction of two functional pacemakers. We next advance an idea that the glycocalyx, plasma membrane, and cortical actin web represent a structure-functional unit and propose the concept of tensegrity model. Finally, we present our recent data suggesting that erythrocytes are gliding or hovering and rotating over the surface of intact glycocalyx, whereas the rotational and hovering components of their passage along the capillaries are lost when glycocalyx of either is degraded. These insights into the mechanics of endothelial glycocalyx motions may be of value in crosspollination between biomechanics, physiology, and pathophysiology for deeper appreciation of its rich untapped resources in health and pharmacotherapy in disease.