Nutritional implications in vascular endothelial cell metabolism

Bernhard Hennig, Michal Toborek, Craig J. McClain, John N. Diana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Endothelial cells interact with blood components and the abluminal tissues, thus playing an active role in many aspects of vascular function. Numerous physiologic and pathophysiologic stimuli are often mediated by nutrients that can contribute to the overall functions of endothelial cells in the regulation of vascular tone, coagulation, cellular growth, immune and inflammatory responses. Therefore, nutrient-mediated functional changes of the endothelium and the underlying tissues may be significantly involved in disease processes such as atherosclerosis. There is evidence that individual nutrients or nutrient derivatives may either provoke or prevent metabolic and physiologic perturbations of the vascular endothelium. Diets high in fat and/or calories are considered a risk factor for the development of atherosclerosis. Our research has shown that certain diet-derived lipids and their derivatives can disrupt normal endothelial integrity, thus reducing the ability of the endothelium to act as a selectively permeable barrier to blood components. Mechanisms underlying fatty acid-mediated endothelial cell dysfunction may be related to changes in fatty acid composition as well as to an increase in cellular oxidative stress. Selective lipid accumulation and fatty acid changes in endothelial cells can modulate membrane fluidity, proteoglycan metabolism and signal transduction mechanisms. Most importantly, dietary fats rich in certain unsaturated fatty acids, may be atherogenic by enhancing the formation of reactive oxygen intermediates. A subsequent imbalance in cellular oxidative stress/antioxidant status can activate oxidative stress-responsive transcription factors, which in turn may promote cytokine production, expression of adhesion molecules on the surface of endothelial cells, and thus intensify an inflammatory response in atherosclerosis. Our data also suggest that certain nutrients, which have antioxidant and/or membrane stabilizing properties, can protect endothelial cells by interfering with lipid/cytokine-mediated endothelial cell dysfunction. These findings contribute to the understanding of the interactive role of dietary fats with inflammatory components, as well as with nutrients that exhibit antiatherogenic properties, in the development of atherosclerosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-358
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the American College of Nutrition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 1996

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported in part by grants lPOl HL36552 from the National Institutes of Health, the Veterans' Administration and the General Clinical Research Center MOl RR02602-08, University of Kentucky, grants from the Dairy Management, Inc., National Live Stock and Meat Board, and the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station.


  • Antioxidants
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Barrier function
  • Endothelial cells
  • Fatty acids
  • Inflammatory cytokines
  • Nutrition
  • Oxidative stress
  • Transcription factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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