The inner lining of blood vessels, the endothelium, consists of a monolayer of endothelial cells (ECs), that present a free luminal surface and attach on their abluminal side to the underlying basement membrane (apart from a minimal amount of cell-cell overlap). A great deal of heterogeneity exists in the morphology of the endothelium and in the phenotype displayed by individual ECs. In spite of this, all ECs may be defined by two general criteria: anatomical location (i.e., luminal wall of blood vessels) and functionality (e.g., provision of a nonthrombogenic surface). In a mature resting vessel, the functionality and integrity of the endothelium is maintained under steady state conditions by the biosynthetic activity of the ECs, in conjunction with low levels of cell proliferation and motility. Significant changes in the motility of the endothelial cells, often accompanied by cell proliferation, occur during angiogenesis and in response to vessel injury.
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