Substrate stiffness affects sarcomere and costamere structure and electrophysiological function of isolated adult cardiomyocytes

Peter A. Galie, Nashmia Khalid, Kelly E. Carnahan, Margaret V. Westfall, Jan P. Stegemann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Introduction: The mechanical environment is a key regulator of function in cardiomyocytes. We studied the role of substrate stiffness on the organization of sarcomeres and costameres in adult rat cardiomyocytes and further examined the resulting changes in cell shortening and calcium dynamics. Methods: Cardiomyocytes isolated from adult rats were plated on laminin-coated polydimethylsiloxane substrates of defined stiffness (255 kPa, 117 kPa, 27 kPa, and 7 kPa) for 48 h. Levels of α-actinin and β1 integrins were determined by immunofluoresence imaging and immunoblotting, both in the absence and presence of the phosphatase inhibitor calyculin A. Quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction was used to measure message levels of key structural proteins (α-actinin, α7 integrin, β1 integrin, vinculin). Sarcomere shortening and calcium dynamics were measured at 2, 24, and 48 h. Results: Overall cardiomyocyte morphology was similar on all substrates. However, well organized sarcomere structures were observed on only the stiffest (255 kPa) and the most compliant (7 kPa) substrates. Levels of α-actinin in cells were the same on all substrates, while message levels of structural proteins were up-regulated on substrates of intermediate stiffness. Inhibition of phosphatase activity blocked the degradation of contractile structures, but altered overall cardiomyocyte morphology. Shortening and calcium dynamics also were dependent on substrate stiffness; however, there was no clear causative relationship between the phenomena. Conclusions: Extracellular matrix stiffness can affect structural remodeling by adult cardiomyocytes, and the resulting contractile activity. These findings illuminate changes in cardiomyocyte function in cardiac fibrosis, and may suggest cardiac-specific phosphatases as a target for therapeutic intervention

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-227
Number of pages9
JournalCardiovascular Pathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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