Signaling mechanisms regulating fibroblast activation, phenoconversion and fibrosis in the heart
Indian Journal of Biochemistry & Biophysics
Cardiac fibroblasts (CFs) maintain the cardiac extracellular matrix (ECM) through myocardial remodelling. The remodelling process can become dysregulated during various forms of heart disease which leads to an overall accumulation of ECM. This results in cardiac fibrosis which increases the risk of heart failure in many patients. During heart disease, quiescent CFs undergo phenoconversion to an activated cell type called cardiac myofibroblasts (CMFs). Factors influencing phenoconversion include
... oconversion include transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) which via SMADs (small mothers against decapentaplegic) activates the myofibroblast marker gene αSMA (α smooth muscle actin). Signaling molecules as diverse as NAD(P)H oxidase 4 (Nox4) and Wnt have been found to interact with TGF-β signalling via SMADs. Pathways, including FAK/TAK/JNK and PI3K/Akt/rac have also been implicated in activating phenoconversion of fibroblasts. Another major contributor is mechanical stress exerted on CFs by ECM changes, which involves activation of ERK and subsequent αSMA expression. Other factors, such as the mast cell protease tryptase and the seeding density also affect the phenoconversion of fibroblast cultures in vitro. Further, reversal of myofibroblast phenotype has been reported by a negative regulator of TGF-β, Ski, as well as the hormone relaxin and the second messenger cAMP. Targeting the signaling molecules involved in promoting phenoconversion of CFs to CMFs presents a possible method of controlling cardiac fibrosis. Here, we provide a brief review of signaling mechanisms responsible for phenoconversion and identify critical targets for the treatment of cardiac fibrosis.