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Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2007 May;292(5):C1799-808. Epub 2007 Jan 17.

Cardiac fibroblasts influence cardiomyocyte phenotype in vitro.

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  • 1University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Shadyside Hospital, Department of Pathology, West Wing G Floor, Rm. WG21.3, 5230 Center Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15232, USA.


Cardiac fibroblasts impact myocardial development and remodeling through intercellular contact with cardiomyocytes, but less is known about noncontact, profibrotic signals whereby fibroblasts alter cardiomyocyte behavior. Fibroblasts and cardiomyocytes were harvested from newborn rat ventricles and separated by serial digestion and gradient centrifugation. Cardiomyocytes were cultured in 1) standard medium, 2) standard medium diluted 1:1 with PBS, or 3) standard medium diluted 1:1 with medium conditioned > or =72 h by cardiac fibroblasts. Serum concentrations were held constant under all media conditions, and complete medium exchanges were performed daily. Cardiomyocytes began contracting within 24 h at clonal or mass densities with <5% of cells expressing vimentin. Immunocytochemical analysis revealed progressive expression of alpha-smooth muscle actin in cardiomyocytes after 24 h in all conditions. Only cardiomyocytes in fibroblast-conditioned medium stopped contracting by 72 h. There was a significant, sustained increase in vimentin expression specific to these cultures (means +/- SD: conditioned 46.3 +/- 6.0 vs. control 5.3 +/- 2.9%, P < 0.00025) typically with cardiac myosin heavy chain coexpression. Proteomics assays revealed 10 cytokines (VEGF, GRO/KC, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, leptin, macrophage inflammatory protein-1alpha, IL-6, IL-10, IL-12p70, IL-17, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha) at or below detection levels in unconditioned medium that were significantly elevated in fibroblast-conditioned medium. Latent transforming growth factor-beta and RANTES were present in unconditioned medium but rose to higher levels in conditioned medium. Only granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor was present above threshold levels in standard medium but decreased with fibroblast conditioning. These data indicated that under the influence of fibroblast-conditioned medium, cardiomyocytes exhibited marked hypertrophy, diminished contractile capacity, and phenotype plasticity distinct from the dedifferentiation program present under standard culture conditions.

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