Cardiac fibroblasts are exposed to both cyclic strain and interstitial fluid flow in the myocardium. The balance of these stimuli is affected by fibrotic scarring, during which the fibroblasts transition to a myofibroblast phenotype. The present study investigates the mechanisms by which cardiac fibroblasts seeded in three-dimensional (3D) collagen gels differentiate between strain and fluid flow. Neonatal cardiac fibroblast-seeded 3D collagen gels were exposed to interstitial flow and/or cyclic strain and message levels of collagens type I and III, transforming growth factor β1 (TGF-β1), and α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) were assessed. Flow was found to significantly increase and strain to decrease expression of myofibroblast markers. Corresponding immunofluorescence indicated that flow and strain differentially regulated α-SMA protein expression. The effect of flow was inhibited by exposure to losartan, an angiotensin II type 1 receptor (AT1R) blocker, and by introduction of shRNA constructs limiting AT1R expression. Blocking of TGF-β also inhibited the myofibroblast transition, suggesting that flow-mediated cell signaling involved both AT1R and TGF-β1. Reduced smad2 phosphorylation in response to cyclic strain suggested that TGF-β is part of the mechanism by which cardiac fibroblasts differentiate between strain-induced and flow-induced mechanical stress. Our experiments show that fluid flow and mechanical deformation have distinct effects on cardiac fibroblast phenotype. Our data suggest a mechanism in which fluid flow directly acts on AT1R and causes increased TGF-β1 expression, whereas cyclic strain reduces activation of smad proteins. These results have relevance to the pathogenesis and treatment of heart failure.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cell Biology