Endothelial cells are known to respond to hemodynamic forces. Their phenotype has been suggested to differ between atheroprone and atheroprotective regions of the vasculature, which are characterized by the local hemodynamic environment. Once an atherosclerotic plaque has formed in a vessel, the obstruction creates complex spatial gradients in wall shear stress. Endothelial cell response to wall shear stress may be linked to the stability of coronary plaques. Unfortunately, in vitro studies of the endothelial cell involvement in plaque stability have been limited by unrealistic and simplified geometries, which cannot reproduce accurately the hemodynamics created by a coronary stenosis. Hence, in an attempt to better replicate the spatial wall shear stress gradient patterns in an atherosclerotic region, a three dimensional asymmetric stenosis model was created. Human abdominal aortic endothelial cells were exposed to steady flow (, 100, and 200 and , , and ) in idealized 50% asymmetric stenosis and straight/tubular in vitro models. Local morphological changes that occur due to magnitude, duration, and spatial gradients were quantified to identify differences in cell response. In the one dimensional flow regions, where flow is fully developed and uniform wall shear stress is observed, cells aligned in flow direction and had a spindlelike shape when compared with static controls. Morphological changes were progressive and a function of time and magnitude in these regions. Cells were more randomly oriented and had a more cobblestone shape in regions of spatial wall shear stress gradients. These regions were present, both proximal and distal, at the stenosis and on the wall opposite to the stenosis. The response of endothelial cells to spatial wall shear stress gradients both in regions of acceleration and deceleration and without flow recirculation has not been previously reported. This study shows the dependence of endothelial cell morphology on spatial wall shear stress gradients and demonstrates that care must be taken to account for altered phenotype due to geometric features. These results may help explain plaque stability, as cells in shoulder regions near an atherosclerotic plaque had a cobblestone morphology indicating that they may be more permeable to subendothelial transport and express prothrombotic factors, which would increase the risk of atherothrombosis.