BACKGROUND: Mechanical overload of the heart is associated with excessive deposition of extracellular matrix proteins and the development of cardiac fibrosis. This can result in reduced ventricular compliance, diastolic dysfunction, and heart failure. Extracellular matrix synthesis is regulated primarily by cardiac fibroblasts, more specifically, the active myofibroblast. The influence of mechanical stretch on human cardiac fibroblasts' response to pro-fibrotic stimuli, such as transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ), is unknown as is the impact of stretch on B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) and natriuretic peptide receptor A (NPRA) expression. BNP, acting via NPRA, has been shown to play a role in modulation of cardiac fibrosis.
METHODS AND RESULTS: The effect of cyclical mechanical stretch on TGFβ induction of myofibroblast differentiation in primary human cardiac fibroblasts and whether differences in response to stretch were associated with changes in the natriuretic peptide system were investigated. Cyclical mechanical stretch attenuated the effectiveness of TGFβ in inducing myofibroblast differentiation. This finding was associated with a novel observation that mechanical stretch can increase BNP and NPRA expression in human cardiac fibroblasts, which could have important implications in modulating myocardial fibrosis. Exogenous BNP treatment further reduced the potency of TGFβ on mechanically stretched fibroblasts.
CONCLUSION: We postulate that stretch induced up-regulation of the natriuretic peptide system may contribute to the observed reduction in myofibroblast differentiation.