Collagen lattices containing bovine retinal pericytes (RPs), vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs), pulmonary microvessel endothelial cells (PMECs), or aortic endothelial cells (AECs) were prepared and contraction was quantitated by measuring the resulting change in lattice area. VSMCs were the most efficient at lattice contraction followed by RPs and then PMECs. AECs did not contract the lattices. To document further that these observations represent contraction, cells were grown on inert silicone rubber sheets. Substratum wrinkling was indicative of tension development and quantitated as percent of cells contracted. RPs were more contractile than PMECs, and AECs were incapable of developing tension. VSMCs were less contractile than RPs, unlike the comparative contractility observed with the lattice system. Alteration of actin-containing filaments by cytochalasin B significantly reduced RP contraction of silicone rubber and inhibited their contraction of collagen lattices in a dose-dependent manner. Rhodamine-phalloidin staining of contracting RPs revealed microfilament bundle orientations that suggested their association in the force applied for contraction. RP, VSMC and PMEC contraction of collagen lattices was directly proportional to the concentration of fetal calf serum. Also, RP contraction was greater in calf serum than calf plasma-derived serum, an indication that RPs respond to substances that appear continuously and episodically in blood. These in vitro findings support the theory that pericytes in vivo are contractile but that endothelial cells may also contribute to microvascular tonus.

This content is only available as a PDF.