In situ reprogramming to transdifferentiate fibroblasts into cardiomyocytes using adenoviral vectors: Implications for clinical myocardial regeneration

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The reprogramming of cardiac fibroblasts into induced cardiomyocyte-like cells improves ventricular function in myocardial infarction models. Only integrating persistent expression vectors have thus far been used to induce reprogramming, potentially limiting its clinical applicability. We therefore tested the reprogramming potential of nonintegrating, acute expression adenoviral (Ad) vectors.


Ad or lentivirus vectors encoding Gata4 (G), Mef2c (M), and Tbx5 (T) were validated in vitro. Sprague-Dawley rats then underwent coronary ligation and Ad-mediated administration of vascular endothelial growth factor to generate infarct prevascularization. Three weeks later, animals received Ad or lentivirus encoding G, M, or T (AdGMT or LentiGMT) or an equivalent dose of a null vector (n = 11, 10, and 10, respectively). Outcomes were analyzed by echocardiography, magnetic resonance imaging, and histology.


Ad and lentivirus vectors provided equivalent G, M, and T expression in vitro. AdGMT and LentiGMT both likewise induced expression of the cardiomyocyte marker cardiac troponin T in approximately 6% of cardiac fibroblasts versus <1% cardiac troponin T expression in AdNull (adenoviral vector that does not encode a transgene)-treated cells. Infarcted myocardium that had been treated with AdGMT likewise demonstrated greater density of cells expressing the cardiomyocyte marker beta myosin heavy chain 7 compared with AdNull-treated animals. Echocardiography demonstrated that AdGMT and LentiGMT both increased ejection fraction compared with AdNull (AdGMT: 21% ± 3%, LentiGMT: 14% ± 5%, AdNull: −0.4% ± 2%; P < .05).


Ad vectors are at least as effective as lentiviral vectors in inducing cardiac fibroblast transdifferentiation into induced cardiomyocyte-like cells and improving cardiac function in postinfarct rat hearts. Short-term expression Ad vectors may represent an important means to induce cardiac cellular reprogramming in humans.

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