After intramyocardial injection, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) may engraft and influence host myocardium. However, engraftment rate and pattern of distribution are difficult to control in vivo, hampering assessment of potential adverse effects. In this study, the role of the engraftment patterns of MSCs on arrhythmicity in controllable in vitro models is investigated.Methods and Results—
Cocultures of 4×105 neonatal rat cardiomyocytes and 7% or 28% adult human MSCs (hMSCs) in diffuse or clustered distribution patterns were prepared. Electrophysiological effects were studied by optical mapping and patch-clamping. In diffuse cocultures, hMSCs dose-dependently decreased neonatal rat cardiomyocyte excitability, slowed conduction, and prolonged action potential duration until 90% repolarization (APD90). Triggered activity (14% versus 0% in controls) and increased inducibility of re-entry (53% versus 6% in controls) were observed in 28% hMSC cocultures. MSC clusters increased APD90, slowed conduction locally, and increased re-entry inducibility (23%), without increasing triggered activity. Pharmacological heterocellular electric uncoupling increased excitability and conduction velocity to 133% in 28% hMSC cocultures, but did not alter APD90. Transwell experiments showed that hMSCs dose-dependently increased APD90, APD dispersion, inducibility of re-entry and affected specific ion channel protein levels, whereas excitability was unaltered. Incubation with hMSC–derived exosomes did not increase APD in neonatal rat cardiomyocyte cultures.Conclusions—
Adult hMSCs affect arrhythmicity of neonatal rat cardiomyocyte cultures by heterocellular coupling leading to depolarization–induced conduction slowing and by direct release of paracrine factors that negatively affect repolarization rate. The extent of these detrimental effects depends on the number and distribution pattern of hMSCs. These results suggest that caution should be urged against potential adverse effects of myocardial hMSC engraftment.