The organization of actin and myosin in vascular endothelial cells in situ was studied by immunofluorescence microscopy. Examination of perfusion-fixed, whole mounts of normal mouse and rat descending thoracic aorta revealed the presence of axially oriented stress fibers containing both actin and myosin within the endothelial cells. In both species, the proportion of cells containing stress fibers varied from region to region within the same vessel. Some endothelial cells in mouse mesenteric vein and in rat inferior vena cava also contained stress fibers. Quantitative studies of the proportion of endothelial cells containing stress fibers in the descending thoracic aorta of age-matched normotensive and spontaneously hypertensive rats revealed significant differences. When animals of the same sex of the two strains were compared, the proportion was approximately two times greater in the spontaneously hypertensive rats. The proportion of endothelial cells containing stress fibers was about two times greater in males than in females of both strains. These observations suggest that multiple factors, including anatomical, sex, and hemodynamic differences, influence the organization of the endothelial cell cytoskeleton in situ.

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