PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Elastin has historically been described as an amorphous protein that functions to provide recoil to tissues that stretch. However, evidence is growing that elastin's role may not be limited to biomechanics. In this minireview, we will summarize current knowledge regarding vascular elastic fibers, focusing on structural differences along the arterial tree and how those differences may influence the behavior of affiliated cells. RECENT FINDINGS: Regional heterogeneity, including differences in elastic lamellar number, density and cell developmental origin, plays an important role in vessel health and function. These differences impact cell-cell communication, proliferation and movement. Perturbations of normal cell-matrix interactions are correlated with human diseases including aneurysm, atherosclerosis and hypertension. SUMMARY: Although classically described as a structural protein, recent data suggest that differences in elastin deposition along the arterial tree have important effects on heterotypic cell interactions and human disease.