Elastic fibers are critical for the mechanical function of the large arteries. Mechanical effects of elastic fiber protein deficiency have been investigated in whole arteries, but not in isolated smooth muscle cells (SMCs). The elastic moduli of SMCs from elastin (Eln-/-) and fibulin-4 (Fbln4-/-) knockout mice were measured using atomic force microscopy. Compared to control SMCs, the modulus of Eln-/- SMCs is reduced by 40%, but is unchanged in Fbln4-/- SMCs. The Eln-/- SMC modulus is rescued by soluble or α elastin treatment. Altered gene expression, specifically of calponin, suggests that SMC phenotypic modulation may be responsible for the modulus changes.

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