Physiologic, Pathologic, and Therapeutic Paracrine Modulation of Cardiac Excitation-Contraction Coupling

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Abstract

Cardiac excitation–contraction coupling (ECC) is the orchestrated process of initial myocyte electrical excitation, which leads to calcium entry, intracellular trafficking, and subsequent sarcomere shortening and myofibrillar contraction. Neurohumoral β-adrenergic signaling is a well-established mediator of ECC; other signaling mechanisms, such as paracrine signaling, have also demonstrated significant impact on ECC but are less well understood. For example, resident heart endothelial cells are well-known physiological paracrine modulators of cardiac myocyte ECC mainly via NO and endothelin-1. Moreover, recent studies have demonstrated other resident noncardiomyocyte heart cells (eg, physiological fibroblasts and pathological myofibroblasts), and even experimental cardiotherapeutic cells (eg, mesenchymal stem cells) are also capable of altering cardiomyocyte ECC through paracrine mechanisms. In this review, we first focus on the paracrine-mediated effects of resident and therapeutic noncardiomyocytes on cardiomyocyte hypertrophy, electrophysiology, and calcium handling, each of which can modulate ECC, and then discuss the current knowledge about key paracrine factors and their underlying mechanisms of action. Next, we provide a case example demonstrating the promise of tissue-engineering approaches to study paracrine effects on tissue-level contractility. More specifically, we present new functional and molecular data on the effects of human adult cardiac fibroblast conditioned media on human engineered cardiac tissue contractility and ion channel gene expression that generally agrees with previous murine studies but also suggests possible species-specific differences. By contrast, paracrine secretions by human dermal fibroblasts had no discernible effect on human engineered cardiac tissue contractile function and gene expression. Finally, we discuss systems biology approaches to help identify key stem cell paracrine mediators of ECC and their associated mechanistic pathways. Such integration of tissue-engineering and systems biology methods shows promise to reveal novel insights into paracrine mediators of ECC and their underlying mechanisms of action, ultimately leading to improved cell-based therapies for patients with heart disease.

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