Inhibition of TGF-β pathway reverts extracellular matrix remodeling in T. cruzi-infected cardiac spheroids

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Chagasic cardiomyopathy (CC) is the main manifestation of Chagas Disease (CD). CC is a progressive dysfunctional illness, in which transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) plays a central role in fibrogenesis and hypertrophy. In the present study, we tested in a three-dimensional (3D) model of cardiac cells culture (named cardiac spheroids), capable of mimicking the aspects of fibrosis and hypertrophy observed in CC, the role of TGF-β pathway inhibition in restoring extracellular matrix (ECM) balance disrupted by T. cruzi infection. Treatment of T. cruzi-infected cardiac spheroids with SB 431542, a selective inhibitor of TGF-β type I receptor, resulted in a reduction in the size of spheroids, which was accompanied by a decrease in parasite load and in fibronectin expression. The inhibition of TGF-β pathway also promoted an increase in the activity of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and a decrease in tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinase (TIMP)-1 expression, which may be one of the mechanisms regulating extracellular matrix remodeling. Therefore, our study provides new insights into the molecular mechanisms by which inhibition of TGF-β signaling reverts fibrosis and hypertrophy generated by T. cruzi during CC and also highlights the use of cardiac spheroids as a valuable tool for the study of fibrogenesis and anti-fibrotic compounds.

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