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The artery wall is equipped with a water permeation barrier that allows blood to flow at high pressure without significant water leak. The precise location of this barrier is unknown despite its importance in vascular function and its contribution to many vascular complications when it is compromised. Herein we map the water permeability in intact arteries, using coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) microscopy and isotopic perfusion experiments. Generation of the CARS signal is optimized for water imaging with broadband excitation. We identify the water permeation barrier as the endothelial basolateral membrane and show that the apical membrane is highly permeable. This is confirmed by the distribution of the AQP1 water channel within endothelial membranes. These results indicate that arterial pressure equilibrates within the endothelium and is transmitted to the supporting basement membrane and internal elastic lamina macromolecules with minimal deformation of the sensitive endothelial cell. Disruption of this pressure transmission could contribute to endothelial cell dysfunction in various pathologies.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





4805 - 4810


Raman spectroscopy, blood flow, multiphoton microscopy, superresolution microscopy, water permeation, Animals, Aquaporin 1, Arteries, Capillary Permeability, Endothelium, Vascular, Male, Nonlinear Optical Microscopy, Rats, Rats, Sprague-Dawley