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Circulation. 1991 Jun;83(6):1849-65.

Pathological hypertrophy and cardiac interstitium. Fibrosis and renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system.

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Division of Cardiology, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia 65212.


Left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) is the major risk factor associated with myocardial failure. An explanation for why a presumptive adaptation such as LVH would prove pathological has been elusive. Insights into the impairment in contractility of the hypertrophied myocardium have been sought in the biochemistry of cardiac myocyte contraction. Equally compelling is a consideration of abnormalities in myocardial structure that impair organ contractile function while preserving myocyte contractility. For example, in the LVH that accompanies hypertension, the extracellular space is frequently the site of an abnormal accumulation of fibrillar collagen. This reactive and progressive interstitial and perivascular fibrosis accounts for abnormal myocardial stiffness and ultimately ventricular dysfunction and is likely a result of cardiac fibroblast growth and enhanced collagen synthesis. The disproportionate involvement of this nonmyocyte cell, however, is not a uniform accompaniment to myocyte hypertrophy and LVH, suggesting that the growth of myocyte and nonmyocyte cells is independent of each other. This has now been demonstrated in in vivo studies of experimental hypertension in which the abnormal fibrous tissue response was found in the hypertensive, hypertrophied left ventricle as well as in the normotensive, nonhypertrophied right ventricle. These findings further suggest that a circulating substance that gained access to the common coronary circulation of the ventricles was involved. This hypothesis has been tested in various animal models in which plasma concentrations of angiotensin II and aldosterone were varied. Based on morphometric and morphological findings, it can be concluded that arterial hypertension (i.e., an elevation in coronary perfusion pressure) together with elevated circulating aldosterone are associated with cardiac fibroblast involvement and the resultant heterogeneity in tissue structure. Nonmyocyte cells of the cardiac interstitium represent an important determinant of pathological LVH. The mechanisms that invoke short- (e.g., collagen metabolism) and long-term (e.g., mitosis) responses of cardiac fibroblasts require further investigation and integration of in vitro with in vivo studies. The stage is set, however, to prevent pathological LVH resulting from myocardial fibrosis as well as to reverse it.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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