Under normal conditions the vascular endothelium supports vasodilation, inhibits platelet adhesion and activation, suppresses coagulation, enhances fibrin cleavage and is anti-inflammatory in character. Under acute vascular trauma, vasoconstrictor mechanisms predominate and the endothelium becomes prothrombotic, procoagulatory and proinflammatory in nature. This is achieved by a reduction of endothelial dilating agents: adenosine, NO and prostacyclin; and by the direct action of ADP, serotonin and thromboxane on vascular smooth muscle cells to elicit their contraction (Becker et al. 2000).
Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) are primarily expressed in endothelial cells. Both are important regulators of vascular function. Under normal conditions, laminar flow induces vascular endothelial COX-2 expression and synthesis of Prostacyclin (PGI2) which in turn stimulates endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase (eNOS) activity. PGI2 and NO both oppose platelet activation and aggregation, as does the CD39 ecto-ADPase, which decreases platelet activation and recruitment by metabolizing platelet-released ADP.