The effect of myocardin and Smad3 overexpression in ventricular myofibroblasts: cellular contractility and collagen production

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Bedosky, Kristen Marie
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The incidence of cardiovascular disease has reached epidemic proportions in North America. Specifically, myocardial infarctions (MI) are a major contributor to heart failure which greatly influences morbidity and mortality rates in developed nations. In the post-MI heart, cardiac fibroblasts migrate to the damaged area, convert to myofibroblasts and contribute to infarct scar contraction. As well, cardiac myofibroblasts are hypersynthetic for matrix components eg, collagen, and de novo production of fibrillar collagens lessens the chance for acute scar rupture. TGF-1 is important in the initiation of cardiac healing and fibrosis. Canonical TGF-1 signaling occurs with the activation of receptor-operated Smads (R-Smads) including Smad3. The current study addresses the question of whether Smad3 and/or myocardin influence myofibroblast contractility. We believe that myocardin is a Smad3 binding partner and cofactor and thus contributes to Smad associated healing and fibrotic events in the heart. In mesenchyme-derived cells, myocardin exists as a nuclear protein and is a cardiac and smooth muscle specific transcriptional coactivator of serum response factor (SRF). This transcription factor has been shown to bind to Smad3 in COS-7 cells (a green monkey kidney fibroblast-like cell line) and we suggest that it may contribute to fibroproliferative events. Precisely how Smad3/myocardin facilitates post-MI wound healing and/or contributes to inappropriate post-MI fibrosis is unknown. Very little work has been done to address myocardin expression in cardiac ventricular myofibroblasts. While a number of previous studies address TGF-β/Smad signaling in cardiac myofibroblasts, none have addressed the effects of overexpressed Smad3 on cellular contractility and collagen secretion. As Smad3 and its endogenous inhibitor Smad eg, I-Smad7, contribute significantly to TGF-β signaling in myofibroblasts, we rationalize that they must be important in the regulation of many fibroproliferative processes. Our goals were first to measure/determine myocardin expression in primary ventricular myofibroblasts; second, to explore a putative interaction between Smad3 and myocardin; third to examine a possible link between TGF-β1 stimulation, myocardin and Smad3. Finally, we sought to examine the effect of overexpressed Smad3, Smad7 and myocardin on contractility and collagen production. These experiments were conducted by using RT-PCR, co-immunoprecipitation, adenoviral overexpression of Smad3, Smad7 and myocardin, Western blot analysis, collagen gel deformation assays (contractility studies) and finally, Pro-collagen 1 N-terminal Peptide (P1NP) secretion as a measure of mature collagen production. We document the novel expression of myocardin in ventricular myofibroblasts and provide evidence that myocardin may serve as a Smad3 cofactor in cardiac myofibroblasts. Further, myocardin overexpression is linked to increased contractility in myofibroblasts compared to LacZ infected controls, and that TGF-β1 acutely stimulated myocardin expression followed by a dramatic reduction 1 hour thereafter. Overexpressed Smad3 alone led to increased contractility in primary ventricular myofibroblasts. Thus the effect of increasing myocardin expression had a comparable effect to that of increased Smad3 alone with this endpoint. Finally, overexpression of both Smad3 and myocardin in the presence of TGF-β1 led to an additive stimulation of contractility in cells when compared to the effect of TGF-β1 stimulation alone. Overexpressed Smad7 alone was associated with decreased secretion of type I collagen when compared to the control; when cells overexpressing Smad7 are stimulated with TGF-β1, collagen secretion is dramatically reduced when compared to cells treated with TGF-β1. In an addition series of experiments we addressed reverse mode NCX1 function as a means of Ca2+ entry to the cytosol of myofibroblasts upon their excitation. We have previously shown the stimulatory effect of TGF-β1 on myofibroblast contractility, and we now report that overexpression of Smad3 alone led to increased mRNA expression of NCX1. Thus it is possible that TGF-β1 signaling via Smad3 may influence Ca2+ movements and thus contractile performance in ventricular myofibroblasts.
myocardin, Smad3, cardiac myofibroblasts, contractility, collagen production