Function of endothelial cells

Owing to the strategic location of the endothelium, it is able to perform many different functions. In addition to acting as a protective barrier, endothelial cells have been shown to play important roles in control of homeostasis, capillary transport, and, more importantly, regulation of the tone of underlying vascular smooth muscle. The endothelium evokes relaxation of these muscle cells, allowing vasodilation via the chemical factor endothelium-derived relaxing factor (EDRF), which has been identified as nitric oxide (NO). The EDRF or NO is vital for maintaining the vasodilatory capacity of vascular muscle and also controls levels of platelet function and monocyte adhesion. Any endothelial injury or dysfunction could therefore be an important factor in atherosclerosis.

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