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J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2013 Jan;54:73-81. doi: 10.1016/j.yjmcc.2012.11.006. Epub 2012 Nov 22.

Syndecan-4 signaling via NFAT regulates extracellular matrix production and cardiac myofibroblast differentiation in response to mechanical stress.

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Institute for Experimental Medical Research, Oslo University Hospital and University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.


Pressure overload activates cardiac fibroblasts leading to excessive production of extracellular matrix which may contribute to compromised heart function. The activated fibroblast acquires smooth muscle-like features such as expression of smooth muscle α-actin (SMA) and SM22 and is therefore referred to as myofibroblast. The molecular mechanisms underlying mechanical stress-induced myofibroblast differentiation are poorly defined. The objective of this study was to examine the potential roles of the transmembrane proteoglycan syndecan-4 and the calcineurin-dependent transcription factor nuclear factor of activated T-cells (NFAT) in myofibroblast differentiation. Aortic banding resulted in elevated collagen I and III, fibronectin, SMA and SM22 mRNA in the left ventricles of wild-type mice, whereas this response was markedly reduced in syndecan-4(-/-) mice. Myofibroblast differentiation in vitro was associated with increased SMA, collagen I and III expression and NFAT-luciferase activity, all of which were reduced in fibroblasts from syndecan-4(-/-) mice or after treatment with calcineurin/NFAT blockers. Following cyclic stretch, NFATc4 was activated in cardiac fibroblasts in a syndecan-4- and calcineurin-dependent manner. Syndecan-4 and calcineurin co-localized and mechanical stress resulted in dephosphorylation of serine179 of syndecan-4, an intracellular residue critical for calcineurin interaction. Over-expression of NFATc4 up-regulated collagen III, MRTF-A (a transcriptional regulator of SMA) and the NFAT-target regulator of calcineurin 1.4 (RCAN1.4). Our data demonstrate that syndecan-4 is important for the differentiation of cardiac fibroblasts into myofibroblasts in the pressure-overloaded heart and that the calcineurin/NFAT pathway is engaged upon mechanical stress in a syndecan-4-dependent manner, playing an active role in myofibroblast differentiation and extracellular matrix production. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Possible Editorial'.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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