In the face of systemic risk factors, certain regions of the arterial vasculature remain relatively resistant to the development of atherosclerotic lesions. The biomechanically distinct environments in these arterial geometries exert a protective influence via certain key functions of the endothelial lining; however, the mechanisms underlying the coordinated regulation of specific mechano-activated transcriptional programs leading to distinct endothelial functional phenotypes have remained elusive. Here, we show that the transcription factor Kruppel-like factor 2 (KLF2) is selectively induced in endothelial cells exposed to a biomechanical stimulus characteristic of atheroprotected regions of the human carotid and that this flow-mediated increase in expression occurs via a MEK5/ERK5/MEF2 signaling pathway. Overexpression and silencing of KLF2 in the context of flow, combined with findings from genome-wide analyses of gene expression, demonstrate that the induction of KLF2 results in the orchestrated regulation of endothelial transcriptional programs controlling inflammation, thrombosis/hemostasis, vascular tone, and blood vessel development. Our data also indicate that KLF2 expression globally modulates IL-1β-mediated endothelial activation. KLF2 therefore serves as a mechano-activated transcription factor important in the integration of multiple endothelial functions associated with regions of the arterial vasculature that are relatively resistant to atherogenesis.
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