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Posts Tagged ‘selective myocyte growth factors’


Contributions to Cardiomyocyte Interactions and Signaling

Author and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

and

Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Introduction

This is Part II of the ongoing research in the Lee Laboratory, concerned with Richard T Lee’s dissection of the underlying problems that will lead to a successful resolution of myocardiocyte regeneration unhampered by toxicity, and having a suffuciently sustained effect for an evaluation and introduction to the clinic.  This would be a milestone in the treatment of heart failure, and an alternative to transplantation surgery.  This second presentation focuses on the basic science work underpinning the therapeutic investigations.  It is work that, if it was unsupported and did not occur because of insufficient funding, the Part I story could not be told.

Cardiomyocyte hypertrophy and degradation of connexin43 through spatially restricted autocrine/paracrine heparin-binding EGF

J Yoshioka, RN Prince, H Huang, SB Perkins, FU Cruz, C MacGillivray, DA Lauffenburger, and RT Lee *
Cardiovascular Division, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; and Biological Engineering Division, MIT, Cambridge, MA
PNAS 2005; 302(30):10622-10627.  http://pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.0501198102

Growth factor signaling can affect tissue remodeling through autocrine/paracrine mechanisms. Recent evidence indicates that EGF receptor transactivation by heparin-binding EGF (HB-EGF) contributes to hypertrophic signaling in cardiomyocytes. Here, we show that HB-EGF operates in a spatially restricted circuit in the extracellular space within the myocardium, revealing the critical nature of the local microenvironment in intercellular signaling. This highly localized microenvironment of HB-EGF signaling was demonstrated with 3D morphology, consistent with predictions from a computational model of EGF signaling. HB-EGF secretion by a given cardiomyocyte in mouse left ventricles led to cellular hypertrophy and reduced expression of connexin43 in the overexpressing cell and in immediately adjacent cells but not in cells farther away. Thus, HB-EGF acts as an autocrine and local paracrine cardiac growth factor that leads to loss of gap junction proteins within a spatially confined microenvironment. These findings demonstrate how cells can coordinate remodeling with their immediate neighboring cells with highly localized extracellular EGF signaling. Within 3D tissues, cells must coordinate remodeling in response to stress or growth signals, and this communication may occur by direct contact or by secreted signaling molecules. Cardiac hypertrophy is a physiological response that enables the heart to adapt to an initial stress; however, hypertrophy can ultimately lead to the deterioration in cardiac function and an increase in cardiac arrhythmias. Although considerable progress has been made in elucidating the molecular pathogenesis of cardiac hypertrophy, the precise mechanisms guiding the hypertrophic process remain unknown. Recent evidence suggests that myocardial heparin-binding (HB)-epidermal growth factor participates in the hypertrophic response. In cardiomyocytes, hypertrophic stimuli markedly increase expression of the HB-EGF gene, suggesting that HB-EGF can act as an autocrine trophic factor that contributes to cellular growth. HB-EGF is first synthesized as a membrane-anchored form (proHB-EGF), and subsequent ectodo-main shedding at the cell surface releases the soluble form of HB-EGF. Soluble HB-EGF is a diffusible factor that can be captured by the receptors to activate the intracellular EGF receptor signaling cascade. Indeed, EGF receptor (EGFR) transactivation, triggered by shedding of HB-EGF from the cell surface, plays an important role in cardiac hypertrophy resulting from pressure overload in the aortic-banding model. EGFR activation can occur through autocrine and paracrine signaling. In autocrine signaling, a cell produces and responds to the same signaling molecules. Paracrine signaling molecules can target groups of distant cells or act as localized mediators affecting only cells in the immediate environment of the signaling cell. Thus, although locally produced HB-EGF may travel through the extra-cellular space, it may also be recaptured by the EGFR close to the point where it was released from the cell surface. The impact of spatially localized microenvironments of signaling could be extensive heterogeneous tissue remodeling, which can be particularly important in an electrically coupled tissue like myocardium. Interestingly, recent data suggest that EGF can regulate protea-some-dependent degradation of connexin43 (Cx43), a major trans-membrane gap junction protein, in liver epithelial cells, along with a rapid inhibition of cell–cell communication through gap junctions. One of the critical potential myocardial effects of HB-EGF could therefore be to increase degradation of Cx43 and reduce electrical stability of the heart. Reduced content of Cx43 is commonly observed in chronic heart diseases such as hypertrophy, myocardial infarction, and failure. Thus, we hypothesized that HB-EGF signals may operate in a spatially restricted local circuit in the extracellular space. We also hypothesized that HB-EGF secretion by a given cardiomyocyte could create a local remodeling microenvironment of decreased Cx43 within the myocardium. To explore whether HB-EGF signaling is highly spatially constrained, we took advantage of the nonuniform gene transfer to cardiac myocytes in vivo, normally considered a pitfall of gene therapy. We also performed computational modeling to predict HB-EGF dynamics and developed a 3D approach to measure cardiomyocyte hypertrophy.

Results

Autocrine HB-EGF and Cardiomyocyte Growth.

To assess the effects of gene transfer of HB-EGF on cardiomyocyte hypertrophy, cells were infected with adenoviral vectors expressing GFP alone (Ad-GFP) or HB-EGF and GFP (Ad-HB-EGF). At this level of infection, 99% of cardiomyocytes were transduced. The incidence of apoptotic cell death (sub-G1 fraction) was not different between Ad-GFP cells, suggesting that expression of GFP by the adenoviral vector was not cardiotoxic in these conditions. Western analysis by using an anti-HB-EGF antibody confirmed successful gene transfer of HB-EGF in cardiomyocytes (18 ± 5-fold, n = 4, P < 0.01); HB-EGF appeared electrophoretically as several bands from 15 to 30 kDa (Fig. 1A). The strongest band corresponds to the soluble 20-kDa form of HB-EGF. To confirm that Ad-HB-EGF results in cellular hypertrophy, cell size and protein synthesis were measured. Ad-HB-EGF enlarged cardiomyocytes compared with Ad-GFP-infected cells by phase-contrast microscopy (24 ± 10% increase in cell surface area, n = 27, P < 0.05) and with flow cytometry analysis (26 ± 10% increase of Ad-GFP infected cells, P < 0.01, Fig. 1B). Overexpression of HB-EGF increased total protein synthesis in cardiomyocytes as measured by [3H]leucine uptake (34 ± 6% of Ad-GFP, n = 6, P < 0.01, Fig. 1C). Uninfected cells within the same dish (and thus sharing the same culture media) did not develop hypertrophy. Additionally, medium from cultures previously infected with Ad-HB-EGF for 48 h was collected and applied to adenovirus-free cultures. Conditioned medium from Ad-HB-EGF-infected cardiomyocytes failed to stimulate hypertrophy in naive cardiomyocytes (Fig. 1C), and there were no significant differences in cell size between noninfected cells from Ad-GFP and Ad-HB-EGF dishes. These results suggest that HB-EGF acts primarily as an autocrine growth factor in cardiomyocytes in vitro.
Because the dilution factor in culture media is important for autocrine/paracrine signaling, we determined the concentration of soluble HB-EGF in the conditioned medium and the effective concentration to stimulate cardiomyocyte growth. HB-EGF levels in the conditioned medium from Ad-HB-EGF dishes were 258 ± 73 pg/ml (n = 4), whereas HB-EGF levels from Ad-GFP dishes (n = 8) were below the limit of detection (6.7 pg/ml). The addition of 300 pg/ml of exogenous recombinant HB-EGF into fresh media failed to stimulate hypertrophy in cardiomyocytes as measured by [3H]leucine uptake (-12 ± 5.0% compared with control, n = 5,P = not significant), but 2,000 pg/ml of recombinant HB-EGF did result in a significant effect (+24 ± 5.5% compared with control, n = 6, P < 0.05). This comparison implies that the local concentration of autocrine ligand is substantially greater than that indicated by a bulk measurement of conditioned media, consistent with previous experimental and theoretical studies.

Fig. 1. Effects of gene transfer of HB-EGF on rat neonatal cardiomyocyte growth.

(A) Cells were infected with adenoviral vectors expressing GFP (Ad-GFP), or HB-EGF and GFP (Ad-HB-EGF). Western analysis showed the successful gene transfer of HB-EGF. (8) FACS analysis of 5,000 cardiomyocytes demonstrated that overexpression of HB-EGF produced a 26 ± 10% increase in cell size that was significantly greater than the overex-pression of GFP. Bar graphs with errors represent mean ± SEM from three independent experiments. **, P < 0.01 vs. Ad-HB-EGF-nonin-fected cells and Ad-GFP nonin-fected cells. , P < 0.05 vs. Ad-GFP infected cells. (C) Overexpression of HB-EGF resulted in a 34 ± 6% increase in [3H]leucine uptake compared with Ad-GFP (n = 6), whereas conditioned medium from Ad-HB-EGF cells caused an only insignificant increase. **, P < 0.05 vs. Ad-GFP control and conditioned medium Ad-GFP.

 Effects of HB-EGF on Cx43 Content in Cultured Cardiomyocytes

Because EGF can induce degradation of the gap junction protein Cx43 in other cells, we then determined whether Cx43 is regulated by HB-EGF in cardiomyocytes. Fig. 2A shows a representative immunoblot from three separate experiments in which Cx43 migrated as three major bands at 46, 43, and 41 kDa, as reported in ref. 16. Overexpression of HB-EGF decreased total Cx43 content (27 ± 11% compared with Ad-GFP, n = 4, P < 0.05) without affecting the intercellular adhesion protein, N-cadherin. The phosphorylation of ERK1/2, an intracellular signaling kinase downstream of EGFR transactivation, was augmented by HB-EGF (3.2 ± 1.0-fold compared with Ad-GFP, n = 4, P < 0.05). Northern analysis showed that HB-EGF did not reduce Cx43 gene expression, suggesting that HB-EGF decreases Cx43 by posttranslational modification (Fig. 2B). AG 1478 (10 iLM), a specific inhibitor of EGFR tyrosine kinase, abolished the effect of HB-EGF on Cx43 (Fig. 2C), indicating that the decrease in Cx43 content depends on EGFR transactivation by HB-EGF. The conditioned medium from Ad-HB-EGF-infected cells did not change expression of Cx43 in naive cells, even though ERK1/2 was slightly activated by the conditioned medium (Fig. 1D). These data are consistent with the hypertrophy data presented above, demonstrating that HB-EGF can act as a predominantly autocrine factor both in hypertrophy and in the reduction of Cx43 content in cardiomyocytes.

Computational Analysis Predicts HB-EGF Autocrine/Paracrine Signaling in Vivo.

Although these in vitro experiments showed HB-EGF as a predominantly autocrine cardiac growth factor, HB-EGF signaling in vivo takes place in a very different environment. Therefore, we sought to determine the extent that soluble HB-EGF may travel in the interstitial space of the myocardium with a simple 2D model of HB-EGF diffusion (Fig. 3A). An approximate geometric representation of myocytes in cross-section is a square (15 x 15 iLm), with each of the corners occupied by a capillary (diameter 5 iLm). The cell shape was chosen so that the extracellular matrix width (0.5 iLm), in which soluble HB-EGF is free to diffuse, was constant around all tissue features. This model geometry is based on a square array of capillaries; although a hexagonal pattern of capillary distribution is commonly accepted, the results are not expected to be substantially different with this simpler construction, because both have four capillaries surrounding each myocyte. The model represents a single central cell that is releasing HB-EGF at a constant rate, Rgen, (approximated from the HB-EGF concentration measurement in conditioned medium) into the extracellular space. HB-EGF then can diffuse throughout this space, or enter a capillary and leave the system. This system is governed by
  • the diffusion equation at steady state (DV2C = 0),
  • the boundary condition for the ligand producing cell (—DVC = Rgen),
  • the boundary condition for all other cells (—DVC = 0), and
  • the capillary boundary condition (DVC = h(C — Cblood)).

C denotes HB-EGF concentration, D is the diffusivity constant, h is the mass transfer coefficient, and Cblood is the concentration of HB-EGF in the blood, approximated to be zero.  The numerical solution in Fig. 3B illustrates that HB-EGF remained localized around the cell which produced it and did not diffuse farther because of the sink-like effect of the capillaries. The maximum concentration of soluble HB-EGF achieved is 0.27 nM, which is near the threshold level of HB-EGF measured to stimulate cardiomyocyte growth (2,000 pg/ml). Therefore, the central HB-EGF-producing cell only signals to its four adjacent neighbors where the HB-EGF concentration reaches this threshold. However, if the model geometry is altered to reflect a 50% and 150% increase in cross-sectional area in all cells because of hypertrophy, estimated from 1 and 4 weeks of transverse aortic constriction, the maximum concentration achieved increases slightly to 0.29 nM and 0.37 nM, respectively. As the cell width increases, HB-EGF must diffuse farther to reach a capillary, exposing adjacent cells to a higher concentration during hypertrophy. However, no additional cells are exposed to HB-EGF. 

Fig. 3. Computational modeling of HB-EGF diffusion in the myocardium.

Red areas represent capillaries, green represents the HB-EGF ligand producing cell, pink represents adjacent cells, and white is an extracellular matrix where HB-EGF is free to diffuse. (A) The model geometry where HB-EGF is generated by the ligand-producing cell at a constant rate, Rgen, and diffuses throughout the extracellular space or enters a capillary and leaves the system with a mass transfer coefficient, h. (B) Numerical solution of the steady-state HB-EGF concentration profile with Rgen = 10 cell-1s-1, D = 0.7 µm2/s, and h = 0.02 µm/s, where concentration is shown by the color scale and height depicted. The maximum concentration achieved with the stated parameters was 0.27 nM from a capillary. Myocyte length was assumed to be 100 µm.

The driving force that determined the extent to which HB-EGF traveled was the rate of HB-EGF transfer into the capillaries and the diffusivity of HB-EGF. The exact mechanism of macromolecule transport into capillaries is unknown; however, it is most likely through diffusion, transcytosis, or a combination of the two. In the case of diffusion, the mass transfer coefficient governing the flux of HB-EGF through the capillary wall is coupled to the diffusivity of HB-EGF, whereas the terms are uncoupled for the case of transcytosis. Therefore, this model assessed transcytosis as a conservative scenario for HB-EGF localization. Parameter perturbation with uncoupled diffusion and capillary mass transfer showed that HB-EGF remained localized around the origin of production and diffused only to immediate neighbors for mass transfer coefficients >0.002 µm/s. For values <0.002 µm/s, HB-EGF diffused distances more than two cells away from the origin. Although the actual mass transfer coefficient of ligands in the size range of HB-EGF is unknown, values for O2 (0.02 µm/s, 0.032 kDa) (19) and LDL (1.7 x 10-5 µm/s, 2,000–3,000 kDa) (20) have been reported, and we assumed HB-EGF is in the upper end of that range due to its small size. HB-EGF also binds to EGFRs, the extracellular matrix, and cell surface heparan sulfate proteoglycans. EGFR binding and internalization could serve to further localize HB-EGF. The number of extracellular binding sites does not affect the steady-state HB-EGF concentration profile if this binding is reversible. However, these binding sites could serve to localize HB-EGF as the cell begins to produce the ligand by slowing the travel of HB-EGF to the capillaries in the approach to the steady state, or as a source of HB-EGF as the cell slows or stops HB-EGF production. At a diffusivity of 0.7 µm2/s (21), HB-EGF traveled only one cell away, but traveled approximately five cells away at 51.8 µm2/s (22), with a peak concentration below the estimated threshold for stimulating.

Overexpression of HB-EGF Causes Hypertrophy on the Infected Cell and Its Immediate Neighbor in Vivo.

To explore whether HB-EGF signals operate in a spatially restricted local circuit in the in vivo myocardial extracellular space as predicted by computational modeling, adenoviral vectors were injected directly into the left ventricular free wall in 26 male mice (Ad-GFP, n = 12; Ad-HB-EGF, n = 14). Of the 26 mice, 5 (4 Ad-GFP and 1 Ad-HB-EGF) mice died after the surgery. Gene expression was confirmed as positive cellular fluorescence in the presence of GFP, allowing determination of which cells were infected at 7 days (Fig. 4A). Immunohis-tochemical staining revealed that HB-EGF was localized on the Ad-HB-EGF-infected cell membrane or in the extracellular space around the overexpressing cell (Fig. 4A). For comparison, remote cells were defined as noninfected cells far (15–20 cell dimensions) from the adenovirus-infected area and in the same field as infected cells. Conventional 2D cross-sectional analysis blinded to treatment group (Fig. 4B) showed that Ad-GFP-infected cells (n = 102) resulted in no cellular hypertrophy compared with noninfected, adjacent (n = 92), or remote (n = 97) cells (2D myocyte cross-sectional area, 250 ± 7 versus 251 ± 7 or 255 ± 6 µm2, respectively). These data suggest that expression of GFP in these conditions does not cause cellular hypertrophy. However, overexpression of HB-EGF caused hypertrophy in both Ad-HB-EGF-infected cells (a 41 ± 5% increase of Ad-GFP-infected cells, n = 119, P < 0.01) and noninfected adjacent cells (a 33 ± 5% increase of Ad-GFP-adjacent cells, n = 97, P < 0.01) compared with remote cells (n = 109). Because 2D analysis of cardiomyocyte hypertrophy can be influenced by the plane of sectioning, we then developed a 3D histology approach that allowed reconstruction of cardiomyocytes in situ (Fig. 4C). We performed an independent 3D histology analysis of cardiomyocytes to determine cell volumes, blinded to treatment group (Fig. 4B). The volumes of both HB-EGF-infected cells (n = 19, 42,700 ± 4,000 µm3) and their adjacent cells (n = 11, 33,500 ± 3,300 µm3) were significantly greater than volumes of remote cells (n = 13, 18,600 ± 1,700 µm3, P < 0.01 vs. HB-EGF-infected cells and P < 0.05 vs. HB-EGF-adjacent cells, Fig. 4D). In contrast, cells treated with Ad-GFP (n = 12) showed no hypertrophy in the Ad-GFP-adjacent (n = 10) or remote cells (n = 9). These data demonstrate that HB-EGF acts as both an autocrine and local paracrine growth factor within myocardium, as predicted by computational modeling.

Degradation of Cx43 Through Local Autocrine/Paracrine HB-EGF

To determine whether the spatially confined effect of HB-EGF reduces local myocardial Cx43 in vivo, Cx43 was assessed with immunohistochemistry and confocal fluorescence imaging. Cells infected with Ad-HB-EGF had significant decreases in Cx43 immunoreactive signal compared with Ad-GFP cells, consistent with the results of in vitro immunoblotting (Fig. 5A). Quantitative digital image analyses of Cx43 in a total of 22 fields in 6 Ad-HB-EGF hearts and 19 fields in 4 Ad-GFP hearts were analyzed (Fig. 5B). Although Ad-GFP-infected cells showed immunoreactive Cx43 at the appositional membrane, overexpression of HB-EGF increased Cx43 in intracellular vesicle-like components (Fig. 5C), with reduced gap junction plaques (percent Cx43 area per cell area, 52 ± 8% of Ad-GFP control, P < 0.01). These data suggest that reduced expression of Cx43 can be attributed to an increased rate of internalization and degradation in gap junction plaques in cardiomyocytes. Interestingly, HB-EGF secretion by a given cardiomyocyte caused a 37 ± 13% reduction of Cx43 content in its adjacent cells compared with GFP controls (P < 0.05). As degradation of Cx43 may accompany structural changes with marked rearrangement of intercellular connections.  In contrast to Cx43, there was no significant difference in total area occupied by N-cadherin immunoreactive signal in between Ad-GFP (n = 19) and Ad-HB-EGF hearts (1.8 ± 0.5-fold compared with Ad-GFP, n = 17, P = not significant), indicating that HB-EGF has a selective effect on Cx43. Taken together, these data show that HB-EGF leads to cardiomyocyte hypertrophy and degradation of Cx43 in the infected cell and its immediately adjacent neighbors because of autocrine/ paracrine signaling. It should be noted, however, that quantifying the Cx43 from immunostaining could be limited by a nonlinear relation between the amount of Cx43 present and the area of staining.

Fig. 4. Effects of gene transfer of HB-EGF on cardiomyocyte hypertrophy in vivo.

(A) Adenoviral vectors (Ad-GFP or Ad-HB-EGF) were injected into the left ventricular free wall in mice. Myocytes were grouped as infected or noninfected on the basis of GFP fluorescence. Overex-pression of HB-EGF was confirmed by im-munohistochemistry. The presented image was pseudocolored with blue from that stained with Alexa Fluor 555 for the presence of HB-EGF. (Scale bars: 20 sm.) (B) 2D cross-sectional area of cardiomyo-cytes was measured in infected and non-infected cells in the same region of the same animal. Overexpression of HB-EGF caused cellular hypertrophy in both infected and adjacent cells. **, P < 0.01 vs. Ad-GFP infected; , P < 0.01 vs. Ad-HB-EGF remote; and §, P < 0.01 vs. Ad-GFP adjacent cells. GFP (infected 102 cells, adjacent 92 cells, and remote 97 cells from 5 mice), and HB-EGF (infected 119 cells, adjacent 97 cells, and remote 109 cells from 7 mice). The 3D histology also revealed cellular hypertrophy in both Ad-HB-EGF-infected cell and its adjacent cell. **, P < 0.01 vs. Ad-GFP infected; , P < 0.01; and *, P < 0.05 vs. Ad-HB-EGF remote cells. GFP (infected 12 cells, adjacent 10 cells, and remote 9 cells), and HB-EGF (infected 19 cells, adjacent 11 cells, and remote 13 cells). Statistical analysis was performed with one-way ANOVA. (C) Sample image of extracted myocytes in three dimensions.

Discussion

We have demonstrated in this study that HB-EGF secreted by cardiomyocytes leads to cellular growth and reduced expression of the principal ventricular gap junction protein Cx43 in a local autocrine/paracrine manner. Although proHB-EGF is biologically active as a juxtacrine growth factor that can signal to immediately neighboring cells in a nondiffusible mannerseveral studies have revealed the crucial role of metalloproteases in the enzymatic conversion of proHB-EGF to soluble HB-EGF, which binds to and activates the EGFR. Hypertrophic stimuli such as mechanical strain and G protein-coupled receptors agonists mediate cardiac hypertrophy through the shedding of membrane-bound proHB-EGF. Thus, an autocrine/paracrine loop, which requires the diffusible, soluble form of HB-EGF, is necessary for subsequent transactivation of the EGFR to produce the hypertrophic response.

To our knowledge, there have been no previous reports concerning the spatial extent of autocrine/paracrine ligand distribution and signaling in myocardial tissue. A theoretical analysis by Shvartsman et al. predicted, from computational modeling in an idealized cell culture environment, that autocrine ligands may remain highly localized, even within subcellular distances; this prediction has support from experimental data in the EGFR system. In contrast, a theoretical estimate by Francis and Palsson has suggested that cytokines might effectively communicate larger distances, approximated to be 200–300 m from the point of release. However, these studies have all focused on idealized cell culture systems, so our combined experimental and computational investigation here aimed at understanding both in vitro and in vivo situations offers insight.
Our computational model of diffusion in the extracellular space predicts that HB-EGF acts as both an autocrine and spatially restricted paracrine growth factor for neighboring cells. We studied the responses of the signaling cell and its immediate neighbors compared with more distant cells. For a paracrine signal to be delivered to its proper target, the secreted signaling molecules cannot diffuse too far; in vitro experiments, in fact, indicated that HB-EGF acts as a predominantly autocrine signal in cell culture, where diffusion into the medium is relatively unconstrained.
In contrast, in the extracellular space of the myocardium, HB-EGF is localized around the source of production because of tissue geometry, thereby acting in a local paracrine or autocrine manner only. Indeed, our results from in vivo gene transfer demonstrated that both the cell releasing soluble HB-EGF and its surrounding cells undergo hypertrophy. This localized conversation between neighboring cells may allow remodeling to be fine-tuned on a highly spatially restricted level within the myocardium and in other tissues.

Common genetic variation at the IL1RL1locus regulates IL-33/ST2 signaling

JE Ho, Wei-Yu Chen, Ming-Huei Chen, MG Larson, ElL McCabe, S Cheng, A Ghorbani, E Coglianese, V Emilsson, AD Johnson,….. CARDIoGRAM Consortium, CHARGE Inflammation Working Group, A Dehghan, C Lu, D Levy, C Newton-Cheh, CHARGE Heart Failure Working Group, …. JL Januzzi, RT Lee, and TJ Wang J Clin Invest Oct 2013; 123(10):4208-4218.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1172/JCI67119

Abstract and Introduction

The suppression of tumorigenicity 2/IL-33 (ST2/IL-33) pathway has been implicated in several immune and inflammatory diseases. ST2 is produced as 2 isoforms. The membrane-bound isoform (ST2L) induces an immune response when bound to its ligand, IL-33. The other isoform is a soluble protein (sST2) that is thought to be a decoy receptor for IL-33 signaling. Elevated sST2 levels in serum are associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. We investigated the determinants of sST2 plasma concentrations in 2,991 Framing­ham Offspring Cohort participants. While clinical and environmental factors explained some variation in sST2 levels, much of the variation in sST2 production was driven by genetic factors. In a genome-wide associ­ation study (GWAS), multiple SNPs within IL1RL1 (the gene encoding ST2) demonstrated associations with sST2 concentrations. Five missense variants of IL1RL1 correlated with higher sST2 levels in the GWAS and mapped to the intracellular domain of ST2, which is absent in sST2. In a cell culture model, IL1RL1 missense variants increased sST2 expression by inducing IL-33 expression and enhancing IL-33 responsiveness (via ST2L). Our data suggest that genetic variation in IL1RL1 can result in increased levels of sST2 and alter immune and inflammatory signaling through the ST2/IL-33 pathway. Suppression of tumorigenicity 2 (ST2) is a member of the IL-1 receptor (IL-1R) family that plays a major role in immune and inflammatory responses. Alternative promoter activation and splicing produces both a membrane-bound protein (ST2L) and a soluble form (sST2). The transmembrane form of ST2 is selectively expressed on Th2- but not Th1-type T cells, and bind­ing of its ligand, IL-33, induces Th2 immune responses.  In contrast, the soluble form of ST2 acts as a decoy receptor by sequestering IL-33. The IL-33/ST2 pathway has important immunomodulatory effects. Clinically, the ST2/IL-33 signaling pathway participates in the pathophysiology of a number of inflammatory and immune diseases related to Th2 activation, including asthma, ulcera­tive colitis, and inflammatory arthritis. ST2 expression is also upregulated in cardiomyocytes in response to stress and appears to have cardioprotective effects in experimental studies. As a biomarker, circulating sST2 concentrations have been linked to worse prognosis in patients with heart failure, acute dyspnea, and acute coronary syndrome, and also predict mortality and incident cardiovascular events in individuals without existing cardiovascular disease. Both sST2 and its transmembrane form are encoded by IL-1R– like 1 (IL1RL1). Genetic variation in this pathway has been linked to a number of immune and inflammatory diseases. The contribution of IL1RL1 locus variants to interindividual variation in sST2 has not been investigated. The emergence of sST2 as an important predictor of cardiovascular risk and the important role outside of the ST2/IL-33 pathway in inflammatory diseases highlight the value of understanding genetic determinants of sST2. The fam­ily-based FHS cohort provides a unique opportunity to examine the heritability of sST2 and to identify specific variants involved using a genome-wide association study (GWAS). Thus, we per­formed a population-based study to examine genetic determinants of sST2 concentrations, coupled with experimental studies to elu­cidate the underlying molecular mechanisms.

Results

Clinical characteristics of the 2,991 FHS participants are presented in Supplemental Table 1 (supplemental material available online with this article; doi:10.1172/JCI67119DS1). The mean age of participants was 59 years, and 56% of participants were women. Soluble ST2 concentrations were higher in men compared with those in women (P < 0.001). Soluble ST2 concentrations were positively associated with age, systolic blood pressure, body-mass index, antihypertensive medication use, and diabetes mellitus (P < 0.05 for all). Together, these variables accounted for 14% of the variation in sST2 concentrations. The duration of hypertension or diabetes did not materially influence variation in sST2 concentra­tions. After additionally accounting for inflammatory conditions, clinical variables accounted for 14.8% of sST2 variation.

Heritability of sS72.

The age- and sex-adjusted heritability (h2) of sST2 was 0.45 (P = 5.3 x 10–16), suggesting that up to 45% of the vari­ation in sST2 not explained by clinical variables was attributable to genetic factors. Multivariable adjustment for clinical variables pre­viously shown to be associated with sST2 concentrations (21) did not attenuate the heritability estimate (adjusted h2 = 0.45, P = 8.2 x 10–16). To investigate the influence of shared environmental fac­tors, we examined the correlation of sST2 concentrations among 603 spousal pairs and found no significant correlation (r = 0.05, P = 0.25).

Genetic correlates of sS72.

We conducted a GWAS of circulating sST2 concentrations. Quantile-quantile, Manhattan, and regional linkage disequilibrium plots are shown in Supplemental Figures 1–3.  All genome-wide significant SNPs were located in a 400-kb linkage disequilibrium block that included IL1RL1 (the gene encoding ST2), IL1R1, IL1RL2, IL18R1, IL18RAP, and SLC9A4 (Figure 1). Results for 11 genome-wide significant “indepen­dent” SNPs, defined as pairwise r2 < 0.2, are shown in Table 1. In aggregate, these 11 “independent” genome-wide significant SNPs across the IL1RL1 locus accounted for 36% of heritability of sST2. In conditional analyses, 4 out of the 11 SNPs remained genome-wide significant, independent of each other (rs950880, rs13029918, rs1420103, and rs17639215), all within the IL1RL1 locus. The most significant SNP (rs950880, P = 7.1 x 10–94) accounted for 12% of the residual interindividual variability in circulating sST2 concentrations. Estimated mean sST2 concen­trations were 43% higher in major homozygotes (CC) compared with minor homozygotes (AA). Tree loci outside of the IL1RL1 locus had suggestive associations with sST2 (P < 1 x 10–6) and are displayed in Supplemental Table 3.

In silico association with expression SNPs.

The top 10 sST2 SNPs (among 11 listed in Table 1) were explored in collected gene expression databases. There were 5 genome-wide significant sST2 SNPs associated with gene expression across a variety of tissue types (Table 2). Specifically, rs13001325 was associated with IL1RL1 gene expression (the gene encoding both soluble and transmembrane ST2) in several subtypes of brain tissue (prefrontal cortex, P = 1.95 x 10–12; cerebellum, P = 1.54 x 10–5; visual cortex, P = 1.85 x 10–7). The CC genotype of rs13001325 was associated with a higher IL1RL1 gene expression level as well as a higher circulating sST2 concentration when compared with the TT genotype (Supplemental Figure 4). Other ST2 variants were significantly associated with IL18RAP (P = 8.50 x 10–41, blood) and IL18R1 gene expression (P = 2.99 x 10–12, prefrontal cortex).

In silico association with clinical phenotypes in published data

The G allele of rs1558648 was associated with lower sST2 concentra­tions in the FHS (0.88-fold change per G allele, P = 3.94 x 10–16) and higher all-cause mortality (hazard ratio [HR] 1.10 per G allele, 95% CI 1.03–1.16, P = 0.003) in the CHARGE consortium, which observed 8,444 deaths in 25,007 participants during an average fol­low-up of 10.6 years (22). The T allele of rs13019803 was associated with lower sST2 concentrations in the FHS (0.87-fold change per G allele, P = 5.95 x 10–20), higher mortality in the CHARGE consor­tium (HR 1.06 per C allele, 95% CI 1.01–1.12, P = 0.03), and higher risk of coronary artery disease (odds ratio 1.06, 95% CI 1.00–1.11, P = 0.035) in the CARDIoGRAM consortium, which included 22,233 individuals with coronary artery disease and 64,762 controls (23). In relating sST2 SNPs to other clinical phenotypes (including blood pressure, body-mass index, lipids, fasting glucose, natriuretic peptides, C-reactive protein, and echocardiographic traits) in pre­viously published studies, we found nominal associations with C-reactive protein for 2 SNPs (Supplemental Table 4).

Putative functional variants.

Using GeneCruiser, we examined nonsynonymous SNPs (nSNPs) (missense variants) that had at least suggestive association with sST2 (P < 1 x 10–4), includ­ing SNPs that served as proxies (r2 = 1.0) for nSNPs within the 1000 Genomes Pilot 1 data set (ref. 24 and Table 3). There were 6 missense variants located within the IL1RL1 gene, 5 of which had genome-wide significant associations with sST2 concen­trations, including rs6749114 (proxy for rs10192036, Q501K), rs4988956 (A433T), rs10204137 (Q501R), rs10192157 (T549I), rs10206753 (L551S), and rs1041973 (A78AE). Base substitutions and corresponding amino acid changes for these coding muta­tions are listed in Table 3. In combination, these 6 missense muta­tions accounted for 5% of estimated heritability, with an effect estimate of 0.23 (standard error [s.e.] 0.02, P = 2.4 x 10–20). When comparing major homozygotes with minor homozygotes, the esti­mated sST2 concentrations for these missense variants differed by 11% to 15% according to genotype (Supplemental Table 5). In conditional analyses, intracellular and extracellular variants appeared to be independently associated with sST2. For instance, in a model containing rs4988956 (A433T) and rs1041973 (A78E), both SNPs remained significantly associated with sST2 (P = 2.61 x 10–24 and P = 7.67 x 10–15, respectively). In total, missence variants added little to the proportion of sST2 variance explained by the 11 genome-wide significant nonmissense variants listed in Table 1. In relating these 6 missense variants to other clinical phenotypes in large consortia, we found an association with asthma for 4 out of the 6 variants (lowest P = 4.8 x 10–12 for rs10204137) (25).

Homology map of IL1RL1 missense variants and ST2 structure.

Of the 6 missense variants mapping to IL1RL1, 5 were within the cytoplas­mic Toll/IL-1R (TIR) domain of the transmembrane ST2 receptor (Figure 2A), and these intracellular variants are thus not part of the circulating sST2 protein. Of these cytoplasmic domain variants, A433T was located within the “box 2” region of sequence conserva­tion, described in the IL-1R1 TIR domain as important for IL-1 sig­naling . Q501R/K was within a conserved motif called “box 3,” but mutants of IL-1R1 in box 3 did not significantly affect IL-1 signaling in previous experiments (26). Both T549I and L551S were near the C terminus of the transmembrane ST2 receptor and were not predicted to alter signaling function based on previous exper­iments with the IL-1R . The A78E SNP was located within the extracellular domain of ST2 and is thus present in both the sST2 isoform and the transmembrane ST2 receptor. In models of the ST2/IL-33/IL-1RAcP complex derived from a crystal structure of the IL-1RII/IL-1β/IL-1RAcP complex (protein data bank ID 1T3G and 3O4O), A78E was predicted to be located on a surface loop within the first immunoglobulin-like domain (Figure 2B), distant from the putative IL-33 binding site or the site of interaction with IL-1RAcP. There were 2 rare extracellular variants that were not cap­tured in our GWAS due to low minor allele frequencies (A80E, MAF 0.008; A176T, MAF 0.002). Both were distant from the IL-33 bind­ing site on homology mapping and unlikely to affect IL-33 binding.

Functional effects of IL1RL1 missense variants on sST2 expression and promoter activity.

Since 5 of the IL1RL1 missense variants asso­ciated with sST2 levels mapped to the intracellular domain of ST2L and hence are not present on sST2 itself, we hypothesized that these missense variants exert effects via intracellular mecha­nisms downstream of ST2 transmembrane receptor signaling to regulate sST2 levels. To investigate the effect of IL1RL1 missense variants (identified by GWAS) on sST2 expression, stable cell lines expressing WT ST2L, IL1RL1 variants (A78E, A433T, T549I, Q501K, Q501R, and L551S), and a construct containing the 5 IL1RL1 intracellular domain variants (5-mut) were generated. Expression of ST2L mRNA and protein (detected in membrane fractions) was confirmed (Supplemental Figures 5 and 6). Eight different stable clones in each group were analyzed to reduce bias from clonal selection. Intracellular domain variants (A433T, T549I, Q501K, Q501R, L551S, and 5-mut), but not the extracellular domain variant (A78E), were associated with increased basal sST2 expression when compared with WT expression (P < 0.05 for all, Figure 3A). sST2 expression was highest in the 5-mut construct, suggesting that intracellular ST2L variants cooperatively regulate sST2 levels. This same pattern was consistent across different cell types (U937, Jurkat T, and A549 cells; Supplemental Figure 7). These findings suggest that intracellular domain variants of the transmembrane ST2 receptor may functionally regulate downstream signaling.   IL1RL1 transcription may occur via two alternative promoters (proximal vs. distal), which leads to differential expression of the soluble versus membrane-bound ST2 proteins. Similar to the sST2 protein expression results above, the intracellular domain variants, but not the extracellular domain variant, were associated with higher basal proximal promoter activity. Dis­tal promoter activity was also increased for most intracellular domain variants (Supplemental Figure 8).

IL1RL1 intracellular missense variants resulted in higher IL-33 pro­tein levels.

In addition to upregulation of sST2 protein levels, IL1RL1 intracellular missense variants caused increased basal IL-33 protein expression (Figure 3B), suggesting a possible autoregulatory loop whereby IL-33 signaling positively induces sST2 expression. IL-33 induced sST2 protein expression in cells expressing both WT and IL1RL1 missense variants. Interest­ingly, this effect was particularly pronounced in the A433T and Q501R variants (Supplemental Figure 9A).

Enhanced IL-33 responsiveness is mediated by IL-113 in A433T and Q501R variants.

Interaction among IL-33, sST2, and IL-113.

Inhibition of IL-113 by anti–IL-113 mAb reduced basal expression of sST2 (Supplemental Figure 11A). Blocking of IL-33 by sST2 did not reduce the induction of IL-113 levels by the IL1RL1 variants (Supplemental Figure 11B). Furthermore, inhibition of IL-113 by anti–IL-113 reduced the basal IL-33 levels. IL-33 itself upregulated sST2 levels, which in turn reduced IL-33 levels (Supplemental Figure 11C). Our results revealed that both IL-33 and IL-113 drive sST2 expression and that IL-113 acts as an upstream inducer of IL-33 and maintains IL-33 expression by intracellular IL1RL1 vari­ants (Supplemental Figure 11D). This suggests that IL1RL1 vari­ants upregulated sST2 mainly through IL-33 autoregulation and that the enhanced IL-33 responsiveness by A433T and Q501R was mediated by IL-113 upregulation.

IL1RL1 missense variants modulate ST2 signaling pathways

The effect of IL1RL1 missense variants on known ST2 downstream regulatory pathways, including NF-KB, AP-1/c-Jun, AKT, and STAT3 , was examined in the presence and absence of IL-33 (Figure 4 and Supplemental Figure 12). The IL1RL1 intracellular missense vari­ants (A433T, T549I, Q501K, Q501R, and L551S) were associated with higher basal phospho–NF-KB p65 and phospho–c-Jun levels (Figure 4, A and B). Consistent with enhanced IL-33 responsive­ness in A433T and Q501R cells, levels of IL-33–induced NF-KB and c-Jun phosphorylation were enhanced in these 2 variants (Figure 4, B and D). In contrast, A433T and Q501R variants showed lower basal phospho-AKT levels (Figure 4E). ……….. The majority of sST2 gene variants in our study were located within or near IL1RL1, the gene coding for both transmembrane ST2 and sST2. IL1RL1 resides within a linkage disequilibrium block of 400 kb on chromosome 2q12, a region that includes a number of other cytokines, including IL-18 receptor 1 (IL18R1) and IL-18 receptor accessory protein (IL18RAP). Polymorphisms in this gene cluster have been associated previously with a num­ber of immune and inflammatory conditions, including asthma, celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes mellitus . Many of these variants were associated with sST2 concentrations in our analysis (Supplemental Table 6). The immune effects of ST2 are corroborated by experimental evidence: membrane-bound ST2 is selectively expressed on Th2- but not Th1-type T helper cells, and activation of the ST2/IL-33 axis elaborates Th2 responses. In general, the allergic phenotypes above are thought to be Th2-mediated processes, in contrast to atherosclerosis, which appears to be a Th1-driven process.

Fig 2  Models of ST2 illustrate IL1RL1 missense variant locations.

Figure 2 Models of ST2 illustrate IL1RL1 missense variant locations.

Models of the (A) intracellular TIR domain (ST2-TIR) and the (B) extracellular domain (ST2-ECD) of ST2 (protein data bank codes 3O4O and 1T3G, respectively). Domains of ST2 are shown in yellow, with identified mis-sense SNP positions represented as red spheres and labels. Note that positions 549 and 551 are near the C terminus of ST2, which is not defined in the crystal structure (protein data bank ID 1T3G, shown as dashed black line in A). Arrows point toward the transmembrane domain, which is also not observed in crystal structures.

Fig 3 IL1RL1 intracellular missense variants resulted in higher sST2 and IL-33.

Figure 3   IL1RL1 intracellular missense variants resulted in higher sST2 and IL-33.

Media from KU812 cells expressing WT and IL1RL1 missense variants were collected for ELISA analysis of (A) sST2, (B) IL-33, and (C) IL-113 levels. Horizontal bars indicate mean values, and symbols represent indi­vidual variants. *P < 0.05, **P < 0.01 vs. WT. (D) Effect of anti–IL-113 mAb on IL-33–induced sST2 expression. Dashed line indicates PBS-treated cells as referent group. Error bars represent mean ± SEM from 2 independent experiments. *P < 0.05 vs. IL-33.

Fig 4  IL1RL1 missense variants modulated ST2 signaling pathways

Figure 4  IL1RL1 missense variants modulated ST2 signaling pathways. 

KU812 cells expressing WT or IL1RL1 variants were treated with PBS or IL-33. Levels of the following phosphorylated proteins were detected in cell lysates using ELISA: (A and B) phospho-NF-KB p65; (C and D) phospho-c-Jun activity; and (E and F) phospho-AKT. (A, C, and E) White bars represent basal levels, and (B, D, and F) gray bars represent relative fold increase (compared with PBS-treated group) after IL-33 treatment. *P < 0.05 vs. WT; **P < 0.01 vs. PBS-treated group. Dashed line in B, D, and F represents PBS-treated cells as referent group. Error bars represent mean ± SEM from 2 independent experiments. Fig 5   IL-33–induced sST2 expression is enhanced with mTOR inhibition and occurs via ST2L-dependent signaling.

Figure 5  IL-33–induced sST2 expression is enhanced with mTOR inhibition and occurs via ST2L-dependent signaling.

(A) sST2 mRNA expression in KU812 cells after treatment with DMSO, IL-33, or IL-33 plus signal inhibitors (wortmannin, LY294002, rapamycin, PD98059, SP60125, BAY11-7082, or SR11302). (B) ST2L mRNA and (C) sST2 mRNA expression in KU812 cells treated with PBS (white columns), rapamycin (rapa), anti-ST2 mAb, IL-33, IL-33 plus anti-ST2, IL-33 plus rapamycin, IL-33 plus rapamycin plus anti-ST2 mAb, or rapamycin plus anti-ST2. (D) IL33 mRNA expression in KU812 cells after treatment with DMSO, signal inhibitors, IL-33 plus signal inhibitors, and IL-1n plus signal inhibitors. *P < 0.05 vs. PBS-treated group; #P < 0.05 vs. IL-33–treated group; &P < 0.05 vs. IL-1n–treated group. Error bars represent mean ± SEM from 2 independent experiments. (E) A schematic model illustrating the regulation of sST2 expression by IL1RL1 missense variants through enhanced induction of IL-33 via enhanced NF-KB and AP-1 signaling and enhanced IL-33 responsiveness via increasing ST2L expression.

Quantitating subcellular metabolism with multi-isotope imaging mass spectrometry

ML Steinhauser, A Bailey, SE Senyo, C Guillermier, TS Perlstein, AP Gould, RT Lee, and CP Lechene
Department of Medicine, Divisions of Cardiovascular Medicine & Genetics, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School & Harvard Stem Cell Institute Division of Physiology and Metabolism, Medical Research Council National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London, UK National Resource for Imaging Mass Spectroscopy
Nature 2012;481(7382): 516–519.   http://dx. do.org/10.1038/nature10734

Mass spectrometry with stable isotope labels has been seminal in discovering the dynamic state of living matter, but is limited to bulk tissues or cells. We developed multi-isotope imaging mass spectrometry (MIMS) that allowed us to view and measure stable isotope incorporation with sub-micron resolution. Here we apply MIMS to diverse organisms, including Drosophila, mice, and humans. We test the “immortal strand hypothesis,” which predicts that during asymmetric stem cell division chromosomes containing older template DNA are segregated to the daughter destined to remain a stem cell, thus insuring lifetime genetic stability. After labeling mice with 15N-thymidine from gestation through post-natal week 8, we find no 15N label retention by dividing small intestinal crypt cells after 4wk chase. In adult mice administered 15N-thymidine pulse-chase, we find that proliferating crypt cells dilute label consistent with random strand segregation. We demonstrate the broad utility of MIMS with proof-of-principle studies of lipid turnover in Drosophila and translation to the human hematopoietic system. These studies show that MIMS provides high-resolution quantitation of stable isotope labels that cannot be obtained using other techniques and that is broadly applicable to biological and medical research. MIMS combines ion microscopy with secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS), stable isotope reporters, and intensive computation (Supplemental Fig 1). MIMS allows imaging and measuring stable isotope labels in cell domains smaller than one micron cubed. We tested the potential of MIMS to quantitatively track DNA labeling with 15N-thymidine in vitro. In proliferating fibroblasts, we detected label incorporation within the nucleus by an increase in the 15N/14N ratio above natural ratio (Fig 1a). The labeling pattern resembled chromatin with either stable isotope-tagged thymidine or thymidine analogs (Fig 1b). We measured dose-dependent incorporation of 15N-thymidine over three orders of magnitude (Fig 1d, Supplemental Fig 2). We also tracked fibroblast division after a 24-hour label-free chase (Fig 1d,e, Supplemental Fig 3). Cells segregated into two populations, one indistinguishable from control cells suggesting no division, the other with halving of label, consistent with one division during chase. We found similar results by tracking cell division in vivo in the small intestine (Fig 1f,g, Supplemental Figs 4–6). We measured dose-dependent 15N-thymidine incorporation within nuclei of actively dividing crypt cells (Fig 1g, Supplemental Fig 4), down to a dose of 0.1µg/ g (Supplemental Fig 2). The cytoplasm was slightly above natural ratio, likely due to low level soluble 15N-thymidine or mitochondrial incorporation (Supplemental Fig 2). We measured halving of label with each division during label-free chase (Supplemental Fig 6). We then tested the “immortal strand hypothesis,” a concept that emerged from autoradiographic studies and that predicted long-term label retaining cells in the small intestinal crypt. It proposes that asymmetrically dividing stem cells also asymmetrically segregate DNA, such that older template strands are retained by daughter cells that will remain stem cells and newer strands are passed to daughters committed to differentiation (Supplemental Fig 7)5,6. Modern studies continue to argue both for or against the hypothesis, leading to the suggestion that definitive resolution of the debate will require a new experimental approach. Although prior evidence suggests a concentration of label-retaining cells in the +4 anatomic position, we searched for DNA label retention irrespective of anatomic position or molecular identity. We labeled mice with 15N-thymidine for the first 8 wks of life when intestinal stem cells are proposed to form. After a 4-wk chase, mice received bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) for 24h prior to sacrifice to identify proliferating cells(Fig 2a, Supplemental Fig 8: Exp 1), specifically crypt base columnar (CBC) cells and transit amplifying cells (TA) (Supplemental Fig 9), which cycle at a rate of one and two times per 24h, respectively (Supplemental Fig 10). All crypt cell nuclei were highly labeled upon completion of 15N-thymidine; after a four-week chase, however, we found no label retention by non-Paneth crypt cells (Fig 2b–f; n=3 mice, 136 crypts analysed). 15N-labeling in BrdU/15N+ Paneth and mesenchymal cells was equivalent to that measured at pulse completion (Fig2b,c) suggesting quiescence during the chase (values above 15N/14N natural ratio: Paneth pulse=107.8 +/− 5.0% s.e.m. n=51 vs Paneth pulse-chase=96.3+/−2.8% s.e.m. n=218; mesenchymal pulse=92.0+/−5.0% s.e.m. n=89 vs mesenchymal pulse-chase=90.5+/ −2.2% s.e.m. n=543). The number of randomly selected crypt sections was sufficient to detect a frequency as low as one label-retaining stem cell per crypt irrespective of anatomic location within the crypt. Because each anatomic level contains approximately 16 circumferentially arrayed cells, a 2-dimensional analysis captures approximately 1/8th of the cells at each anatomic position (one on each side of the crypt; Supplemental Fig 9a). Therefore, assuming only 1 label-retaining stem cell per crypt we should have found 17 label-retaining cells in the 136 sampled crypts (1/8th of 136); we found 0 (binomial test p<0.0001). The significance of this result held after lowering the expected frequency of label-retaining cells by 25% to account for the development of new crypts, a process thought to continue into adulthood. In three additional experiments, using shorter labeling periods and including in utero development, we also found no label-retaining cells in the crypt other than Paneth cells (Supplemental Fig 8, Exps 2–4).

Fig 1 post-natal human DNA synthesis in the heart

In recent years, several protocols have been developed experimentally in an attempt to identify novel therapeutic interventions aiming at the reduction of infarct size and prevention of short and long term negative ventricular remodeling following ischemic myocardial injury. Three main strategies have been employed and a significant amount of work is being conducted to determine the most effective form of action for acute ischemic heart failure. The delivery of bone marrow progenitor cells (BMCs) has been highly controversial, but recent clinical data have shown improvement in ventricular performance and clinical outcome. These observations have not changed the nature of the debate concerning the efficacy of this cell category for the human disease and the mechanisms involved in the impact of BMCs on cardiac structure and function. Whether BMCs transdifferentiate and acquire the cardiomyocyte lineage has faced strong opposition and data in favor and against this possibility have been reported. However, this is the only cell class which has been introduced in the treatment of heart failure in patients and large clinical trials are in progress.
Human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) have repeatedly been utilized in animal models to restore the acutely infarcted myocardium, but limited cell engraftment, modest ability to generate vascular structures, teratoma formation and the apparent transient beneficial effects on cardiac hemodynamics have questioned the current feasibility of this approach clinically. Tremendous efforts are being performed to reduce the malignant tumorigenic potential of ESCs and promote their differentiation into cardiomyocytes with the expectation that these extremely powerful cells may be applied to human beings in the future. Additionally, the study of ESCs may provide unique understanding of the mechanisms of embryonic development that may lead to therapeutic interventions in utero and the correction of congenital malformations.
The recognition that a pool of primitive cells with the characteristics of stem cells resides in the myocardium and that these cells form myocytes, ECs and SMCs has provided a different perspective of the biology of the heart and mechanisms of cardiac homeostasis and tissue repair. Regeneration implies that dead cells are replaced by newly formed cells restoring the original structure of the organ. In adulthood, this process occurs during physiological cell turnover, in the absence of injury. However, myocardial damage interferes with recapitulation of cell turnover and restitutio ad integrum of the organ. Because of the inability of the adult heart to regenerate itself after infarction, previous studies have promoted tissue repair by injecting exogenously expanded CPCs in proximity of the necrotic myocardium or by activating resident CPCs through the delivery of growth factors known to induce cell migration and differentiation. These strategies have attenuated ventricular dilation and the impairment in cardiac function and in some cases have decreased animal mortality.

Although various subsets of CPCs have been used to reconstitute the infarcted myocardium and different degrees of muscle mass regeneration have been obtained, in all cases the newly formed cardiomyocytes possessed fetal-neonatal characteristics and failed to acquire the adult cell phenotype. In the current study, to enhance myocyte growth and differentiation, we have introduced cell therapy together with the delivery of self-assembly peptide nanofibers to provide a specific and prolonged local myocardial release of IGF-1. IGF-1 increases CPC growth and survival in vitro and in vivo and this effect resulted here in a major increase in the formation of cardiomyocytes and coronary vessels, decreasing infarct size and restoring partly cardiac performance. This therapeutic approach was superior to the administration of CPCs or NF-IGF-1 only. Combination therapy appeared to be additive; it promoted myocardial regeneration through the activation and differentiation of resident and exogenously delivered CPCs. Additionally, the strategy implemented here may be superior to the utilization of BMCs for cardiac repair. CPCs are destined to form myocytes, and vascular SMCs and ECs and, in contrast to BMCs, do not have to transdifferentiate to acquire cardiac cell lineages. Transdifferentiation involves chromatin reorganization with activation and silencing of transcription factors and epigenetic modifications.

Selected References

  1. Hsieh PC, Davis ME, Gannon J, MacGillivray C, Lee RT. Controlled delivery of PDGF-BB for myocardial protection using injectable self-assembling peptide nanofibers. J Clin Invest 2006;116:237–248. [PubMed: 16357943]
  2. Davis ME, Hsieh PC, Takahashi T, Song Q, Zhang S, Kamm RD, Grodzinsky AJ, Anversa P, Lee RT. Local myocardial insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) delivery with biotinylated peptide nanofibers improves cell therapy for myocardial infarction. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2006;103:8155–8160. [PubMed: 16698918]
  3. Beltrami AP, Barlucchi L, Torella D, Baker M, Limana F, Chimenti S, Kasahara H, Rota M, Musso E, Urbanek K, Leri A, Kajstura J, Nadal-Ginard B, Anversa P. Adult cardiac stem cells are multipotent and support myocardial regeneration. Cell 2003;114:763–776. [PubMed: 14505575]
  4. Rota M, Padin-Iruegas ME, Misao Y, De Angelis A, Maestroni S, Ferreira-Martins J, Fiumana E, Rastaldo R, Arcarese ML, Mitchell TS, Boni A, Bolli R, Urbanek K, Hosoda T, Anversa P, Leri A, Kajstura J. Local activation or implantation of cardiac progenitor cells rescues scarred infarcted myocardium improving cardiac function. Circ Res 2008;103:107–116. [PubMed: 18556576]

Cardiac anatomy.

Figure 2.  Cardiac anatomy.

(A and B) Cardiac weights and infarct size. R and L correspond, respectively, to the number of myocytes remaining and lost after infarction. (C–G) LV dimensions. Sham-operated: SO. *Indicates P<0.05 vs SO; **vs untreated infarcts (UN); †vs infarcts treated with CPCs; ‡vs infarcts treated with NF-IGF-1.

Ventricular function

Figure 3.  Ventricular function.

Combination therapy (CPC-NF-IGF-1) attenuated the most the negative impact of myocardial infarction on cardiac performance. See Figure 2 for symbols.

Endothelial Cells Promote Cardiac Myocyte Survival and Spatial Reorganization: Implications for Cardiac Regeneration

Daria A. Narmoneva, Rada Vukmirovic, Michael E. Davis, Roger D. Kamm,  and Richard T. Lee
Cardiovascular Division, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, and the Division of Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
Circulation. 2004 August 24; 110(8): 962–968.        http://dx.doi.org/10.1161/01.CIR.0000140667.37070.07

Background

Endothelial-cardiac myocyte (CM) interactions play a key role in regulating cardiac function, but the role of these interactions in CM survival is unknown. This study tested the hypothesis that endothelial cells (ECs) promote CM survival and enhance spatial organization in a 3-dimensional configuration.

Methods and Results

Microvascular ECs and neonatal CMs were seeded on peptide hydrogels in 1 of 3 experimental configurations:

  1. CMs alone,
  2. CMs mixed with ECs (coculture), or
  3. CMs seeded on preformed EC networks (prevascularized).

Capillary-like networks formed by ECs promoted marked CM reorganization along the EC structures, in contrast to limited organization of CMs cultured alone. The presence of ECs markedly inhibited CM apoptosis and necrosis at all time points. In addition, CMs on preformed EC networks resulted in significantly less CM apoptosis and necrosis compared with simultaneous EC-CM seeding (P<0.01, ANOVA). Furthermore, ECs promoted synchronized contraction of CMs as well as connexin 43 expression.

Conclusions

These results provide direct evidence for a novel role of endothelium in survival and organization of nearby CMs. Successful strategies for cardiac regeneration may therefore depend on establishing functional CM-endothelium interactions.

Keywords:  endothelium; cardiomyopathy; heart failure; tissue

Introduction

Recent studies suggest that the mammalian heart possesses some ability to regenerate itself through several potential mechanisms, including generation of new cardiomyocytes (CMs) from extracardiac progenitors, CM proliferation, or fusion with stem cells with subsequent hybrid cell division. These mechanisms are insufficient to regenerate adequate heart tissue in humans, although some vertebrates can regenerate large volumes of injured myocardium.
Several approaches in cell transplantation and cardiac tissue engineering have been investigated as potential treatments to enhance cardiac function after myocardial injury. Implantation of skeletal muscle cells, bone marrow cells, embryonic stem cell-derived CMs, and myoblasts can enhance cardiac function. Cell-seeded grafts have been used instead of isolated cells for in vitro cardiac tissue growth or in vivo transplantation. These grafts can develop a high degree of myocyte spatial organization, differentiation, and spontaneous and coordinated contractions. On implantation in vivo, cardiac grafts can integrate into the host tissue and neovascularization can develop. However, the presence of scar tissue and the death of cells in the graft can limit the amount of new myocardium formed, most likely due to ischemia. Therefore, creating a favorable environment to promote survival of transplanted cells and differentiation of progenitor cells remains one of the most important steps in regeneration of heart tissue.
One of the key factors for myocardial regeneration is revascularization of damaged tissue. In the normal heart, there is a capillary next to almost every CM, and endothelial cells (ECs) outnumber cardiomyocytes by ≈3:1. Developmental biology experiments reveal that myocardial cell maturation and function depend on the presence of endocardial endothelium at an early stage. Experiments with inactivation or overexpression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) demonstrated that at later stages, either an excess or a deficit in blood vessel formation results in lethality due to cardiac dysfunction. Both endocardium and myocardial capillaries have been shown to modulate cardiac performance, rhythmicity, and growth. In addition, a recent study showed the critical importance of CM-derived VEGF in paracrine regulation of cardiac morphogenesis. These findings and others highlight the significance of interactions between CMs and endothelium for normal cardiac function. However, little is known about the specific mechanisms for these interactions, as well as the role of a complex, 3-dimensional organization of myocytes, ECs, and fibroblasts in the maintenance of healthy cardiac muscle.
The critical relation of CMs and the microvasculature suggests that successful cardiac regeneration will require a strategy that promotes survival of both ECs and CMs. The present study explored the hypothesis that ECs (both as preexisting capillary-like structures and mixed with myocytes at the time of seeding) promote myocyte survival and enhance spatial reorganization in a 3-dimensional configuration. The results demonstrate that CM interactions with ECs markedly decrease myocyte death and show that endothelium may be important not only for the delivery of blood and oxygen but also for the formation and maintenance of myocardial structure.

Methods

  • Three-Dimensional Culture
  • Immunohistochemistry and Cell Death Assays
  • Evaluation of Contractile Areas

Results

  • EC-CM Interactions Affect Myocyte Reorganization
  • ECs Improve Survival of CMs
  • Preformed Endothelial Networks Promote Coordinated, Spontaneous Contractions
  • ECs Promote Cx43 Expression

EC-CM Interactions Affect Myocyte Reorganization

To explore interactions between CMs and ECs in 3-dimensional culture, we used peptide hydrogels, a tissue engineering scaffold. Cells seeded on the surface of the hydrogel attach and then migrate into the hydrogel. When CMs alone were used, cells attached on day 1 and then formed small clusters of cells at days 3 and 7 (Figure 1). In contrast, when CMs were seeded together with ECs, cells formed interconnected linear networks, as commonly seen with ECs in 3-dimensional culture environments, with increasing spatial organization from day 1 to day 7 (Figure 1).

Figure 1.  ECs promote CM reorganization. 

When CMs were cultured alone (left column), they aggregated into sparse clusters. When CMs were cultured with ECs (center), cells organized into capillary-like networks. There was no difference in morphological appearance between coculture or prevascularized cultures (not shown) and ECs alone (right column). Bar=100 μm. Abbreviations are as defined in text.

To establish whether preformed endothelial networks enhanced the organization of myocytes, we also seeded ECs 1 day before myocytes were added. These ECs formed similar interconnected networks in the absence of myocytes; preforming the vascular network did not lead to significant differences in morphology (data not shown). Furthermore, to exclude the possibility that the increasing cell density of added ECs caused the spatial organization, we also performed control experiments with varying numbers and combinations of cells; there was no effect of doubling or halving cell numbers, indicating that the spatial organization effect was specifically due to ECs. To establish that both myocytes and ECs were forming networks together, we performed immunofluorescence studies with specific antibodies, as well as analysis of cross sections of CM-EC cocultures, whereby cells were labeled with CellTracker dyes before seeding. Immunofluorescent staining demonstrated that >95% of CMs were present within these networks, suggesting that CMs preferentially migrate to or survive better near ECs (Figure 2).

Figure 2.  CMs appear on outside of endothelial networks.

CMs appear on outside of endothelial networks. High-magnification, double-immunofluorescence image of structures formed in EC-CM coculture at day 7 demonstrating CMs (sarcomeric actinin, red) spread on top of ECs (von Willebrand factor, green) with no myocytes present outside structure. Bar=100 μm. Abbreviations are as defined in text.

The analysis of cross sections demonstrated the presence of what appeared to be EC-derived, tubelike structures (Figure 3), with myocytes spread on the outer part of the capillary wall. Along with the capillary-like structures, clusters of intermingled cells (both myocytes and ECs) not containing the lumen were also observed (not shown). However, when the lumen was present, ECs were always on the inner side and myocytes on the outer side of the structure.

Figure 3.  ECs form tubelike structures with myocytes spreading on outer wall.

Cross section of paraffin-embedded sample of 3-day coculture of myocytes (red) and ECs (green) incubated in CellTracker dye before seeding on hydrogel. Bar=50 μm. Abbreviations are as defined in text.

In CM-fibroblast cocultures, cells rapidly (within 24 hours) formed large clusters consisting of cells of both types (not shown). At later time points, fibroblast proliferation resulted in their migration outside the clusters and spreading on the hydrogel without any pattern. However, in contrast to EC-CM cocultures, CMs remained in the clusters and demonstrated only limited spreading. Immunofluorescent staining revealed that there was no orientation of myocytes relative to the fibroblasts in the clusters. In cultures with EC-conditioned medium, myocyte morphology and spatial organization remained similar to those of myocyte controls.

ECs Improve Survival of CMs

To test the hypothesis that ECs promote CM survival, we assessed apoptosis and necrosis in the 3-dimensional cultures. Quantitative analyses of CMs positive for TUNEL and necrosis staining demonstrated significantly decreased myocyte apoptosis and necrosis when cultured with ECs, compared with CM-only cultures (Figure 4, P<0.01). This effect was observed at all 3 time points, although the decreased necrosis was most pronounced at day 1. In addition, CMs seeded on the preformed EC networks had a lower rate of apoptosis at day 1 relative to same-time seeding cultures (P<0.05, post hoc test), suggesting that early EC-CM interactions provided by the presence of well-attached and prearranged ECs may further promote CM survival. In contrast to the ECs, cardiac fibroblasts did not affect myocyte survival (P>0.05, Figure 4), with ratios for myocyte apoptosis and necrosis in the myocyte-fibroblast cocultures being similar to those for myocyte-only controls. However, addition of EC-conditioned medium resulted in a significant decrease in apoptosis and necrosis ratios of myocytes (P<0.01). Interestingly, the effect of conditioned medium on myocyte necrosis was similar in magnitude to the effect of ECs, whereas myocyte apoptosis ratios in the conditioned-medium group were only partially decreased compared with those in the presence of ECs. These results suggest that the prosurvival effect of ECs on CMs may not only be merely due to the local interactions between myocytes and ECs during myocyte attachment but may also involve direct signaling between myocytes and ECs.

Figure 4.  ECs prolong survival of CMs

Top, dual immunostaining of CMs and EC-myocyte prevascularized groups at day 3 in culture, with TUNEL-positive cells in red; green indicates sarcomeric actinin; blue, DAPI. Bottom, presence of ECs decreased CM apoptosis and necrosis, both in coculture conditions and when cultures were prevascularized by seeding with ECs 1 day before CMs (mean±SD, P<0.01). EC-conditioned medium decreased myocyte apoptosis and necrosis (P<0.01), whereas fibroblasts did not have any effect (P>0.05). *Different from myocytes alone; **different from EC-myocyte coculture and pre-vascularized. Bar=100 μm. Abbreviations are as defined in text.

Preformed Endothelial Networks Promote Coordinated, Spontaneous Contractions

In the prevascularized group with preformed vascular structures, synchronized, spontaneous contractions of large areas (Figure 5, top panels) were detected as early as days 2 to 3after seeding, in contrast to the coculture group, wherein such contractions were observed on days 6 to 7. In CM-only cultures, beating of separate cells and small cell clusters was also detected at days 2 to 3, similar to that in the prevascularized group. However, the average area of synchronized beating at day 3 in the myocyte-only group (3.5±0.5×102 μm2) was nearly 3 orders of magnitude smaller than the synchronously contracting area in the prevascularized group (4.3±2.5×105 μm2, mean±SD, n=5). These data suggest that ECs promote synchronized CM contraction, particularly when vascular networks are already formed.

Figure 5.  ECs promote large-scale, synchronized contraction of CMs.

Left, phase-contrast video of beating areas in CM-only and prevascularized groups (day 3). Right, motion analysis of video showing regions of synchronized contractions (connected areas in purple are contracting synchronously) and nonmoving areas in blue. Bars=100 μm. Abbreviations are as defined in text.

ECs Promote Cx43 Expression

Staining for Cx43 showed striking differences in the distribution pattern of this gap junction protein between EC-CM cocultures and CMs cultured alone. In myocyte-only cultures, Cx43 expression was barely detectable at day 1 (not shown); at days 3 and 7, Cx43 expression was sparse throughout the cell clusters (Figure 6). In the presence of ECs (in both coculture and prevascularized groups), Cx43 staining was evident at day 1, both between ECs and distributed among CMs. As early as day 3 in culture, patches of localized junction-like Cx43, in addition to diffuse staining, were observed for myocytes in the coculture group (Figure 6). In the prevascularized group at day 3, wherein spontaneous contractions were already observed, more junction-like patches of Cx43 were observed compared with the coculture group, indicating electrical connections between myocytes (Figure 6). In addition to junctions between myocytes, there was also evidence of Cx43 localized at the interface between ECs and myocytes (Figure 6) detected in both the coculture group (at day 7) and the preculture group (as early as day 3). When myocytes and myocyte-EC coculture groups were cultured for 3 days with or without addition of 100 ng/mL of neutralizing anti-mouse VEGF antibody (R&D Systems), we observed no differences in either apoptosis or Cx43 staining between VEGF antibody-containing cultures and controls.

Figure 6. ECs promote Cx43 expression

Cultures at 3 days immunostained for Cx43 (red) and anti-sarcomeric actinin (green); nuclei are stained with DAPI (blue). For CMs alone (left), Cx43 staining is diffuse and sparse, with no evidence of gap junctions; for coculture (center), both diffuse (yellow arrow) and patchlike (thin, white arrow) Cx43 staining is observed; for prevascularized (right), increased patchlike staining indicates presence of gap junctions. Thick arrow-heads indicate junctions between myocytes and ECs. Bar=50 μm. Abbreviations are as defined in text.

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Endothelial-Cardiomyocyte Interactions in Cardiac Development and Repair: Implications for Cardiac Regeneration

Patrick C.H. Hsieh, Michael E. Davis, Laura K. Lisowski, and Richard T. Lee

Cardiovascular Division, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
Annu Rev Physiol.    PMC 2009 September 30

The ongoing molecular conversation between endothelial cells and cardiomyocytes is highly relevant to the recent excitement in promoting cardiac regeneration. The ultimate goal of myocardial regeneration is to rebuild a functional tissue that closely resembles mature myocardium, not just to improve systolic function transiently. Thus, regenerating myocardium will require rebuilding the vascular network along with the cardiomyocyte architecture. Here we review evidence demonstrating crucial molecular interactions between endothelial cells and cardiomyocytes. We first discuss endothelial-cardiomyocyte interactions during embryonic cardiogenesis, followed with morphological and functional characteristics of endothelial-cardiomyocyte interactions in mature myocardium. Finally, we consider strategies exploiting endothelial-cardiomyocyte interplay for cardiac regeneration.

Signaling from Cardiomyocytes to Endothelial Cells

The examples of neuregulin-1, NF1, and PDGF-B demonstrate that signals from endothelial cells regulate the formation of primary myocardium. Similarly, signaling from myocardial cells to endothelial cells is also required for cardiac development. Two examples of myocardial-to-endothelial signaling are vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-A and angiopoietin-1.

VASCULAR ENDOTHELIAL GROWTH FACTOR-A

VEGF-A is a key regulator of angiogenesis during embryogenesis. In mice, a mutation in VEGF-A causes endocardial detachment from an underdeveloped myocardium. A mutation in VEGF receptor-2 (or Flk-1) also results in failure of the endocardium and myocardium to develop (18). Furthermore, cardiomyocyte-specific deletion of VEGF-A results in defects in vasculogenesis/angiogenesis and a thinned ventricular wall, further confirming reciprocal signaling from the myocardial cell to the endothelial cell during cardiac development. Interestingly, this cardiomyocyte-selective VEGF-A-deletion mouse has underdeveloped myocardial microvasculature but preserved coronary artery structure, implying a different signaling mechanism for vasculogenesis/angiogenesis in the myocardium and in the epicardial coronary arteries.
Cardiomyocyte-derived VEGF-A also inhibits cardiac endocardial-to-mesenchymal transformation. This process is essential in the formation of the cardiac cushions and requires delicate control of VEGF-A concentration. A minimal amount of VEGF initiates endocardial-to-mesenchymal transformation, whereas higher doses of VEGF-A terminate this transformation. Interestingly, this cardiomyocyte-derived VEGF-A signaling for endocardial-to-mesenchymal transformation may be controlled by an endothelial-derived feedback mechanism through the calcineurin/NFAT pathway (24), demonstrating the importance of endothelial-cardiomyocyte interactions for cardiac morphogenesis.

ANGIOPOIETIN-1

Another mechanism of cardiomyocyte control of endothelial cells during cardiac development is the angiopoietin-Tie-2 system. Both angiopoietin-1 and angiopoietin-2 may bind to Tie-2 receptors in a competitive manner, but with opposite effects: Angiopoietin-1 activates the Tie-2 receptor and prevents vascular edema, whereas angiopoietin-2 blocks Tie-2 phosphorylation and increases vascular permeability. During angiogenesis/vasculogenesis, angiopoietin-1 is produced primarily by pericytes, and Tie-2 receptors are expressed on endothelial cells. Angiopoietin-1 regulates the stabilization and maturation of neovasculature; genetic deletion of angiopoietin-1 or Tie-2 causes a defect in early vasculogenesis/angiogenesis and is lethal.
Cardiac endocardium is one of the earliest vascular components (along with the dorsal aorta and yolk sac vessels) and the adult heart can be regarded as a fully vascularized organ, angiopoietin-Tie-2 signaling may also be required for early cardiac development. Indeed, mice with mutations in Tie-2 have underdeveloped endocardium and myocardium. These Tie-2 knockout mice display defects in the endocardium but have normal vascular morphology at E10.5, suggesting that the endocardial defect is the fundamental cause of death. In addition, a recent study showed that overexpression, and not deletion, of angiopoietin-1 from cardiomyocytes caused embryonic death between E12.5-15.5 due to cardiac hemorrhage. The mice had defects in the endocardium and myocardium and lack of coronary arteries, suggesting that, as with VEGF-A, a delicate control of angiopoietin-1 concentration is critical for early heart development.

ENDOTHELIAL-CARDIOMYOCYTE INTERACTIONS IN NORMAL CARDIAC FUNCTION

Cardiac Endothelial Cells Regulate Cardiomyocyte Contraction

The vascular endothelium senses the shear stress of flowing blood and regulates vascular smooth muscle contraction. It is therefore not surprising that cardiac endothelial cells—the endocardial endothelial cells as well as the endothelial cells of intramyocardial capillaries— regulate the contractile state of cardiomyocytes. Autocrine and paracrine signaling molecules released or activated by cardiac endothelial cells are responsible for this contractile response (Figure 2).

NITRIC OXIDE

Three different nitric oxide synthase isoenzymes synthesize nitric oxide (NO) from L-arginine. The neuronal and endothelial NO synthases (nNOS and eNOS, respectively) are expressed in normal physiological conditions, whereas the inducible NO synthase is induced by stress or cytokines. Like NO in the vessel, which causes relaxation of vascular smooth muscle, NO in the heart affects the onset of ventricular relaxation, which allows for a precise optimization of pump function beat by beat. Although NO is principally a paracrine effector secreted by cardiac endothelial cells, cardiomyocytes also express both nNOS and eNOS. Endothelial expression of eNOS exceeds that in cardiomyocytes by greater than 4:1. Cardiomyocyte autocrine eNOS signaling can regulate β-adrenergic and muscarinic control of contractile state.
Barouch et al. demonstrated that cardiomyocyte nNOS and eNOS may have opposing effects on cardiac structure and function. Using mice with nNOS or eNOS deficiency, they found that nNOS and eNOS have not only different localization in cardiomyocytes but also opposite effects on cardiomyocyte contractility; eNOS localizes to caveolae and inhibits L-type Ca2+ channels, leading to negative inotropy, whereas nNOS is targeted to the sarcoplasmic reticulum and facilitates Ca2+ release and thus positive inotropy (31). These results demonstrate that spatial confinement of different NO synthase isoforms contribute independently to the maintenance of cardiomyocyte structure and phenotype.
As indicated above, mutation of neuregulin or either of two of its cognate receptors, erbB2 and erbB4, causes embryonic death during mid-embryogenesis due to aborted development of myocardial trabeculation . Neuregulin also appears to play a role in fully developed myocardium. In adult mice, cardiomyocyte-specific deletion of erbB2 leads to dilated cardiomyopathy. Neuregulin from endothelial cells may induce a negative inotropic effect in isolated rabbit papillary muscles. This suggests that, along with NO, the neuregulin signaling pathway acts as an endothelial-derived regulator of cardiac inotropism.  In fact, the negative inotropic effect of neuregulin may require NO synthase because L-NMMA, an inhibitor of NO synthase, significantly attenuates the negative inotropy of neuregulin.

Studies to date indicate that cardiac regeneration in mammals may be feasible, but the response is inadequate to preserve myocardial function after a substantial injury. Thus, understanding how normal myocardial structure can be regenerated in adult hearts is essential. It is clear that endothelial cells play a role in cardiac morphogenesis and most likely also in survival and function of mature cardiomyocytes. Initial attempts to promote angiogenesis in myocardium were based on the premise that persistent ischemia could be alleviated. However, it is also possible that endothelial-cardiomyocyte interactions are essential in normal cardiomyocyte function and for protection from injury. Understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms controlling these cell-cell interactions will not only enhance our understanding of the establishment of vascular network in the heart but also allow the development of new targeted therapies for cardiac regeneration by improving cardiomyocyte survival and maturation.

Endothelial-cardiomyocyte assembly

Figure 1.  Endothelial-cardiomyocyte assembly in adult mouse myocardium.
Normal adult mouse myocardium is stained with intravital perfusion techniques to demonstrate cardiomyocyte (outlined in red) and capillary (green; stained with isolectin-fluorescein) assembly. Nuclei are blue (Hoechst). Original magnification: 600X

Endothelial dysfunction

Intramyocardial Fibroblast – Myocyte Communication

Rahul Kakkar, M.D. and Richard T. Lee, M.D.
From the Cardiology Division, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Cardiovascular Division, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
Circ Res. 2010 January 8; 106(1): 47–57.    http://dx.doi.org/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.109.207456

Cardiac fibroblasts have received relatively little attention compared to their more famous neighbors, the cardiomyocytes. Cardiac fibroblasts are often regarded as the “spotters”, nonchalantly watching the cardiomyocytes do the real weight-lifting, and waiting for a catastrophe that requires their actions. However, emerging data now reveal the fibroblast as not only a critical player in the response to injury, but also as an active participant in normal cardiac function.
Interest in cardiac fibroblasts has grown with the recognition that cardiac fibrosis is a prominent contributor to diverse forms of myocardial disease. In the early 1990’s, identification of angiotensin receptors on the surface of cardiac fibroblasts linked the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system directly with pathologic myocardial and matrix extracellular remodeling.  Fibroblasts were also revealed as a major source of not only extracellular matrix, but the proteases that regulate and organize matrix. New research has uncovered paracrine and well as direct cell-to-cell interactions between fibroblasts and their cardiomyocyte neighbors, and cardiac fibroblasts appear to be dynamic participants in ventricular physiology and pathophysiology.
This review will focus on several aspects of fibroblast-myocyte communication, including mechanisms of paracrine communication.  Ongoing efforts at regeneration of cardiac tissue focus primarily on increasing the number of cardiomyocytes in damaged myocardium. Although getting cardiomyocytes into myocardium is an important goal, understanding intercellular paracrine communication between different cell types, including endothelial cells but also fibroblasts, may prove crucial to regenerating stable myocardium that responds to physiological conditions appropriately.

An area of active research in cardiovascular therapeutics is the attempt to engineer, ex vivo, functional myocardial tissue that may be engrafted onto areas of injured ventricle. Recent data suggests that the inclusion of cardiac fibroblasts in three-dimensional cultures greatly enhances the stability and growth of the nascent myocardium. Cardiac fibroblasts when included in polymer scaffolds seeded with myocytes and endothelial cells have the ability to promote and stabilize vascular structures. Naito and colleagues constructed three dimensional cultures of neonatal rat cell isolates on collagen type I and Matrigel (a basement membrane protein mixture), and isolates of a mixed cell population versus a myocyte-enriched population were compared. The mixed population cultures, which contained a higher fraction of cardiac fibroblasts than the myocyte-enriched cultures, displayed improved contractile force generation and greater inotropic response despite an equivalent overall cell number. Greater vascularity was also seen in the mixed-pool cultures.(160) Building on this, Nichol and colleagues demonstrated that in a self-assembling nanopeptide scaffold, embedded rat neonatal cardiomyocytes exhibit greater cellular alignment and reduced apoptosis when cardiac fibroblasts were included in the initial culture. A similar result was noted when polymer scaffolds were pre-treated with cardiac fibroblasts before myocyte seeding, suggesting a persistent paracrine effect. These data reinforce the concept that engineering functional myocardium, either in situ or ex vivo will require attention to the nature of cell-cell interactions, including fibroblasts.

To date, a broad initial sketch of cardiac fibroblast-myocyte interactions has been drawn. Future studies in this field will better describe these interactions. How do multiple paracrine factors interact to produce a cohesive and coordinated communication scheme? What are the changes in coordinated bidirectional signaling that during development promotes myocyte progenitor proliferation but have different roles in the adult? Might fibroblasts actually be required for improved cardiac repair and regeneration?
Recent studies have begun to apply genetic and cellular fate-mapping techniques to document the origins of cardiac fibroblasts, the dynamic nature of their population, and how that population may be in flux during time of injury or pressure overload. It is crucial to define on a more specific molecular basis the origins and fates of cardiac fibroblasts. Do fibroblasts that have been resident within the ventricle since development fundamentally differ from those that arise from endothelial transition or that infiltrate from the bone marrow during adulthood? Do fibroblasts with these different origins behave differently or take on different roles in the face of ventricular strain or injury?

Our understanding of the nature of the cardiac fibroblast is evolving from the concept of the fibroblast as a bystander that causes unwanted fibrosis to the picture of a more complex role of fibroblasts in the healthy as well as diseased heart. The pathways used by cardiac fibroblasts to communicate with their neighboring myocytes are only partially described, but the data to date indicate that these pathways will be important for cardiac repair and regeneration.

. Paracrine bidirectional cardiac fibroblast-myocyte crosstalk

Figure 2. Paracrine bidirectional cardiac fibroblast-myocyte crosstalk

Under biomechanical overload, cardiac fibroblasts and myocytes respond to an altered environment via multiple mechanisms including integrin-extracellular matrix interactions and renin-angiotensin-aldosterone axis activation. Cardiac fibroblasts increase synthesis of matrix proteins and secrete a variety of paracrine factors that can stimulate myocyte hypertrophy. Cardiac myocytes similarly respond by secreting a conglomerate of factors. Hormones such as TGFβ1, FGF-2, and the IL-6 family members LIF and CT-1 have all been implicated in this bidirectional fibroblast-myocyte hormonal crosstalk.

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Notable Contributions to Regenerative Cardiology by Richard T. Lee – Part I

 

Author and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

and

Article Commissioner: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RD

 

Introduction

This presentation is a two part discussion of selected articles of a large body of research from Dr. Richard T. Lee, at Harvard Medical School’s Lee Laboratory and Brigham & Womens Hospital.  This work is innovative in the field of stem cell research and myocardial regeneration.  It devolves the complex cellular processes that are involved in the management of a cell transforming from a progenitor to a functional cardiomyocyte.  The cell engineering involves investigating interactions between a cell placed into the layer derived from the interstitial layer between viable cardiomyocytes.  This is only possible from a through actionable knowledge of the mechanism involved in the transformation process, which has occupied the Lee Laboratory for many years.  Part II will cover the cellular mechanisms underlying the conceptual approach to cardiac myocyte regeneration.

The Lee Laboratory uses emerging biotechnologies to discover and design new approaches to cardiovascular diseases. A central theme of the laboratory is that merging bioengineering and molecular biology approaches can yield novel approaches. Thus, the Lee Laboratory works at this interface using a broad variety of techniques in genomics, imaging, nanotechnology, physiology, cell biology, and molecular biology. The approach is to understand problems and design solutions in the laboratory and then demonstrate the effectiveness of these solutions in vivo. Ongoing projects in the laboratory include studies of cardiac regeneration, diabetic vascular disease, wound healing, heart failure, and cardiac hypertrophy.

Richard T. Lee is Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and lecturer in Biological Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a 1979 graduate of Harvard College in Biochemical Sciences and received his M.D. from Cornell University Medical College in 1983.  He went on to complete his residency in 1986 and cardiology fellowship in 1989, both at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and he obtained post-doctoral training at MIT in Bioengineering.

Dr. Lee is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in cardiovascular disease and is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology. He is Leader of the Cardiovascular Program of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.  He is a member of the Editorial Boards of the journals Circulation Research, Journal of Clinical Investigation, and Circulation, and has published over 180 peer-reviewed articles based on his research, which combines approaches in biotechnology and molecular biology to discover new avenues to manage and treat heart disease.

Regeneration of the heart

Matthew L. Steinhauser, Richard T. Lee
Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and (2)             Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Cambridge, MA
EMBO Mol Med 2011; 3: 701–712   http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/emmm.201100175

The death of cardiac myocytes diminishes the heart’s pump function and is a major cause of heart failure. With the exception of heart transplantation and implantation of mechanical ventricular assist devices, current therapies do not address the central problem of decreased pumping capacity owing to a depleted pool of cardiac myocytes. The field is evolving in two important directions. First, although endogenous mammalian cardiac regeneration clearly seems to decline rapidly after birth, it may still persist in adulthood. The careful elucidation of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of endogenous heart regeneration may therefore provide an opportunity for developing therapeutic interventions that amplify this process. Second, recent breakthroughs have enabled reprogramming of cells that were apparently terminally differentiated, either by dedifferentiation into pluripotent stem cells or by trans-differentiation into cardiac myocytes.
The longstanding paradigm held that the mammalian heart is a terminally differentiated organ, incapable of replenishing any myocyte attrition. During the past decade, however, studies revealed not only that mammalian cardiac myocytes retain some capacity for division (Beltrami et al, 2001), but also identified endogenous cardiac progenitor cells in the heart (Beltrami et al, 2003) or bone marrow (Orlic et al, 2001). These cells retain some potential for differentiation into the cellular components of the heart, including endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells and cardiac myocytes.
If progenitor cells residing in the adult are capable of producing new heart cells, the therapeutic delivery of such progenitors might facilitate the generation of de novo functional myocardium. In this context, cell-based therapies for the heart have been rapidly translated into the clinic to treat heart disease, but randomized clinical trials with bone marrow progenitors have shown at best modest improvements in ventricular function (Martin-Rendon et al, 2008). In short, the promise of complete cardiac regeneration has not yet been realized.  Therefore, it is worth revisiting both the foundations of cardiac regeneration and highlight recent advances that may portend future directions in the field.
We will first define the problem, that is elucidating the scope of endogenous mammalian regeneration and, by extension, the scale of the regenerative deficit. We will then summarize current regenerative approaches, including both cell-based therapies and pharmacoregenerative strategies. In this context, we will summarize the many challenges that stand in the way of cardiac regeneration, both endogenous repair processes and exogenous regenerative therapies.
The regenerative deficit of the mammalian heart is obvious when compared with organisms such as zebrafish and newts, which demonstrate a remarkable survival capacity after removal of up to 20% of the heart by transection of the ventricular apex. Pre-existing cardiac myocytes adjacent to the site appear to undergo a process of dedifferentiation, characterized by dissolution of sarcomeric structures. This is followed by incorporation of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) synthesis markers (e.g. nucleotide analogues) consistent with proliferation. Ultimately, newly generated cardiac myocytes are functionally integrated with the preexisting myocardium. The heart is left with little residual evidence of the injury, thus providing a natural example of complete myocardial regeneration.

Evidence for heart regeneration in mammals

During embryonic development and the early post-natal period, mice also demonstrate a remarkable regenerative capacity. Embryos heterozygous for a cardiac myocyte-specific null mutation in the x-linked holocytochrome c synthase (Hccs) gene demonstrate cardiac myocyte replacement during foetal development (Drenckhahn et al, 2008): when one of two X-chromosomes is randomly inactivated in each female somatic cell, approximately 50% of the cardiac myocytes are rendered Hccs-null and hence dysfunctional. Proliferative functional Hccs-expressing cardiac myocytes compensate for dysfunctional Hccs-null myocytes, such that, at birth, 90% of the heart is derived from myocytes containing one functional Hccs allele. However, after the first week in post-natal mice, injured myocardium is largely replaced by fibrosis and scarring.  Distinguishing whether the adult mammalian heart is incapable of cardiac myocyte replacement or whether it retains a low-level capacity for repair is therefore fundamentally important. This is the basis for an evolving view of a more plastic mammalian heart.
Arguments against the age old view of the terminally differentiated quiescent cardiac myocyte:

  1. evidence supporting cardiac myocyte plasticity relied on mathematical modelling of the myocyte population based on cytometric indices. (the measured average volume increase of cardiac myocytes was calculated to fall short of the increase predicted by the observed volumetric changes in the whole heart
  • changes in heart volume could not be explained by hypertrophy alone, and that cardiac myocyte hyperplasia contributed to changes in heart mass, but the conclusions relied on a number of assumptions about myocyte size and DNA content.
  • detecting cell cycle markers such as Ki67 or the incorporation of nucleotide analogues (e.g. iododeoxyuridine or 3H-thymidine) into newly synthesized DNA further support the notion that the mammalian heart may generate new myocytes
  • human cardiac myocytes can reenter the cell cycle, but the described rates of this phenomenon differ by more than one order of magnitude
  • experiments, made possible by nuclear arms testing in the middle of the 20th century, provide the most convincing evidence for post-natal human cardiac myocyte turnover.
  • the period of nuclear testing serves as a historical DNA labelling pulse, and the period after the test ban treaty serves as a chase.
  • the genomic DNA of cells generated during either the pulse or the chase reflect the earth’s atmospheric 14C concentration at that point in time, which allows investigators to date the age of cardiac myocytes by measuring the concentration of 14C in their nuclei
  1. Listed are a number of problems in detecting the generation of cardiac myocytes:
  • small errors may magnify projections of absolute yearly or lifetime myocyte turnover
  • mis-identification of cellular components by light microscopy
  • autofluorescence of myocardium, which complicates any method that relies on the detection of a fluorescent signal
  • confounders could also affect the 14C dating method, because it requires the isolation of cardiac myocyte nuclei by digestion and flow cytometric sorting

The heart also presents a unique challenge compared to other organs owing to the propensity of cardiac myocytes to synthesize DNA during S-phase without completing either mitosis and/or cytokinesis (Fig 1).

Figure 1. The majority of post-natal human DNA synthesis in the heart does not lead to new myocyte formation.

Cardiac myocytes can complete S-phase, followed by mitosis and cytokinesis (centre) resulting in myocyte doubling. Cardiac myocytes can also complete mitosis without cytokinesis (left), resulting in a binucleated cell. Cardiac myocytes can also undergo chromosomal replication without completing either mitosis or cytokinesis (right), resulting in polyploidy nuclei. By the completion of post-natal development, the majority of human myocyte nuclei contain ~4n chromosomal copies.

During early post-natal development, for example, the majority of rodent cardiac myocytes and an estimated 25–57% of human cardiac myocytes become binucleated. By adulthood, most cardiac myocyte nuclei have also become polyploid with at least one or two additional rounds of chromosomal replication.

The ploidy state of cardiac myocytes may increase with myocardial hypertrophy or injury, which could be mistaken for myocyte division. Conversely, hearts that have been unloaded by implantation of a ventricular assist device may have a lower percentage of polyploid myocytes, because more 2n cardiac myocytes are being generated. These aspects of cardiac myocyte biology inevitably represent potential confounders that must be considered in any quantification of cardiac myocyte formation.

Defining the cellular source of new cardiac myocytes

The majority of reports suggest some endogenous capacity for cardiac myocyte renewal, which has generated a broad focus on finding the cellular source of newly generated cardiac myocytes.  Newly generated adult mammalian cardiac myocytes may arise from an endogenous pool of progenitor cells after injury. The Lee Laboratory developed a genetic lineage mapping approach to quantify progenitor-dependent cardiac myocyte turnover (Fig 2) (Hsieh et al, 2007). In the bitransgenic MerCreMer/ZEG inducible cardiac myocyte reporter mouse, mature cardiac myocytes undergo an irreversible genetic switch from constitutive 3-galactosidase expression to green fluorescent protein (GFP) expression upon tamoxifen pulse. During a chase period, we evaluated the effect of myocardial injury on the proportion of GFP+ or 3-gal+ cardiac myocytes. Pressure overload or myocardial infarction resulted in a significant reduction in the percentage of GFP+ cardiac myocytes and a corresponding increase in the percentage of B-gal+ cardiac myocytes, consistent with repletion of the myocyte pool by B-gal— expressing progenitors. This approach cannot directly identify the molecular identity or anatomic location of the progenitor pool.
One approach to characterizing the molecular phenotype of cardiac progenitors is to study cardiac embryologic develop-ment, guided by the assumption that developmental paradigms are recapitulated during post-natal repair. When examined through a developmental lens, an increasingly detailed picture emerges of the soluble and transcriptional signals that guide the cardiogenic programme from gastrulation (formation of distinct germ layers) through the ultimate maturation of cardiac myocytes. The induction of mesoderm posterior (MESP)-1 expression by brachyury-expressing primitive mesodermal cells is a proximal require¬ment for the ultimate production of differentiated heart cells. As the developing embryo grows beyond the germ layer phase, its developing heart receives cells from distinct anatomic progeni¬tor sources: the 1st and 2nd heart fields provide the majority of the myocardium, with some contribution from epicardial progenitors.
Also, Certain fields may be preferentially marked by specific transcription factors;

  • the first heart field by T-box transcription factor 5 (Tbx5)
  • the second heart field by
    • Lim-homeodomain protein Islet1 (Isl1)
    • and epicardial progenitors by Wilms tumour-1 (WT1) or
    • T-box transcription factor 18 (Tbx18)
    • identified by embryonic lineage tracing or analysis of gene silencing include
      • homeobox protein nkx2.5
      • myocyte enhancer factor 2C (Mef2c)
      • GATA4
      • there is no consensus yet about the molecular identity of post-natal mammalian cardiac progenitor cells or ‘adult cardiac stem cells’

Figure 2. Lineage-mapping in the adult heart.

Left: Theoretical progenitor lineage-mapping is depicted. Progenitors would be selectively marked by fluorescent protein expression. After injury, the appearance of fluorescently labelled cardiac myocytes would support the concept that these progenitors were contributing to new myocyte formation. Right: Differentiated cell (cardiac myocyte) lineage-mapping. Upon treatment of the MerCreMer-ZEG mouse with OH-tamoxifen, approximately 80% of the cardiac myocytes undergo a permanent switch from I3-galactosidase to GFP expression. The dilution of the GFPþ cardiac myocyte pool after injury is consistent with repletion by I3-galþ progenitors.

A number of laboratories have identified cell populations within the post-natal mouse, which fulfil some criteria of cardiac progenitors:

  • expression of a developmentally important gene (isl-1(Laugwitz et al, 2005))
  • specific cell surface receptor profile (c-kit (Beltrami et al, 2003)
  • or sca-1 (Oh et al, 2003))
  • capacity to actively exclude Hoechst dye (so-called side population cells (Martin et al, 2004)) or based on the outgrowth of typical spherical colonies in tissue culture 

In general, the label of ‘cardiac stem cell’ results from the observation of self-propagation and cardiac myocyte transdifferentiation when exposed to cardiogenic conditions in vitro or when delivered in vivo after injury. However, the field will benefit from careful in vivo lineage tracing studies—without ex vivo culture steps—to study if and how a given cell type contributes to cardiac myocyte replenishment during either normal homeostasis or after injury (Fig 2). The lack of such publications to date owes in part to the lack of specificity of many stem cell markers (Fig 3).

Figure 3. Possible recapitulation of developmental paradigms by endogenous post-natal cardiac stem cells.

Between mesodermal development and the emergence of cardiac myocytes, cardiovascular progenitors express a number of markers that have also been detected in the various post-natal cardiac stem cell (CSC) preparations. Expression as measured by messenger RNA (mRNA) or protein expression is denoted with (þ). Absent expression is denoted by (-). Blank1/4 untested.

Moving towards a regenerative therapy

The therapeutic challenge is considerable: a typical large myocardial infarction that leads to heart failure will kill around 1 billion cardiac myocytes,  roughly a quarter of the heart’s myocytes. A possible therapeutic approach would coax an endogenous stem cell population or an exogenously delivered cell-based therapy to replace lost cardiac myocytes in a coordinated fashion. Amongst the myriad of potential cell-based therapies, no clear winning strategy has so far emerged (Segers & Lee, 2008).

Bone marrow derived progenitors

Conflicting studies sparked excitement and also uncertainty about a possible adult cardiogenic progenitor originating outside of the heart. A post-mortem examination of male heart transplant patients who had received female donor hearts found that approximately 10% of -sarcomeric actin-positive cardiac myocytes had Y-chromosomes, and two cases in which a bone marrow cell population with a higher density of the cell surface receptor c-kit, showed repopulation of murine cardiac myocytes after experimental myocardial infarction. A number of studies that followed failed to demonstrate similar rates of chimerism in transplanted hearts or potency of bone marrow stem cell.  However, some therapeutic effect was observed even in studies with no detectable transdifferentiation.

Figure 4. The challenge of regenerating the heart.

Both exogenously delivered cell therapies and progenitors in the endogenous niche encounter a similar hostile environment after myocardial injury, often including inadequate blood supply (ischemia), inflammation and fibrosis/scarring. Regenerative pathways may be activated by as yet unknown paracrine pathways, responsible for recruiting progenitors from the niche, stimulating proliferation and coaxing differentiation.  Cell-based therapy using autologous bone marrow
progenitors was rapidly translated into the clinic to treat human ischemic heart disease. A number of randomized trials, using bone marrow mononuclear cells have been performed and most studies demonstrated modest cell therapy-mediated improvements in ventricular function.

Pluripotent stem cells

Embryonic stem (ES) cells represent the prototypical stem cells with the hallmarks of clonogenicity, self-renewal and pluripotency. The potency of these cells also represents a real safety concern, given their tendency to form teratomas. One approach to overcoming this prohibitive safety problem has been to generate pluripotent-derived progenitors that have already committed to a cardiogenic pathway. As a proof-of-principle example of such a strategy, cells with an expression profile of Oct4, stage-specific embryonic antigen 1 (SSEA-1) and MESP1 demonstrated some regenerative potency when delivered therapeutically in a primate infarct model, without detectable teratoma formation. One could envision a similar strategy using cardiogenic intermediates that express any of the previously mentioned transcription factors associated with cardiac progenitors or cell surface markers such as the receptor for vascular endothelial growth factor (Flk1/KDR). Yet, such a strategy should still demonstrate both substantial preclinical efficacy without tumorigenicity before human translation. If such criteria are met, ES-derived therapies have the potential of providing ‘off-the-shelf’ cardiac myocytes to treat acute myocardial infarctions or chronic heart failure.
A second approach, which may also obviate the risk of teratomas, is to generate a pure population of ES-derived cardiac myocytes for therapeutic delivery either as a cell suspension or after ex vivo tissue engineering. There has already been enormous progress during the past decade in defining the factors and transcription signals to differentiate cardiac myocytes from ES-cells. As discussed in greater detail, cardiac myocyte development is dictated by the time and dose-dependent exposure to a series of growth factors from the wingless-type MMTV integration site (Wnt), fibroblast growth factor (FGF), bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) and nodal families. Several laboratories have successfully generated ES-derived preparations with more than 50% of functional cardiac myocytes.  The most realistic future for such technical advances may be as an unlimited source of cardiac myocytes for engineering myocardial grafts.
The generation of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells may overcome two important limitations of ES cells: ethical concerns about harvesting ES cells from embryos and graft rejection

  • iPS cells can be custom-engineered from a patient’s stromal cells for autologous transplantation.
  • immunogenecity in syngeneically transplanted iPS cells, suggests that the immune system cannot yet be discounted in the development of iPS-based therapies

The initial protocols for iPS cell generation involved retro-viral-mediated expression of four stem-cell genes.
But virally reprogrammed cells may harbour an associated risk of neoplastic conversion. Alternative reprogramming strategies, such as the use of small molecules (Shi et al, 2008) or non-viral gene modifying approaches (Warren et al, 2010) will probably be a necessary component of any future therapeutic strategies. However, the most important lesson from these landmark studies may be the remarkable plasticity of even the most terminally differentiated cells when exposed to the right combination of signals.

Tissue engineering

Historically, the greatest challenge in tissue engineering has been an adequate supply of oxygen and nutrients for metabolically active tissues such as the heart. One approach has been to engineer thin cardiac sheets, which can then be stacked for in vivo delivery. Although these layered sheets demonstrate some degree of electromechanical coordination and neovascularization in vivo, it is not clear yet if such an approach can be optimized to yield full-thickness myocardium with an adequate blood supply. The addition of non-myocyte cellular components, such as fibroblasts and endothelial cells, leads to the formation of primitive vascular structures within engineered grafts, but the electro-mechanical properties are not sufficient for normal functionality.

Circumventing cell-based therapy with pharmacoregeneration?

A short-term goal may be to exploit paracrine signalling to amplify the existent endogenous regenerative response. Recent cell transplantation experiments conducted in our laboratory, using an inducible cre-based genetic lineage mapping approach, tested the hypothesis that cell-based therapies might exert proregenerative effects via a paracrine mechanism (Loffredo et al, 2011) (Fig 5).  Consistent with some prior studies, we found no evidence for transdifferentiation of exogenously delivered bone marrow cells into cardiac myocytes. However, we did find increased generation of cardiac myocytes from endogenous progenitors in mice, which were administered c-kit+ bone marrow cells but not mesenchymal stem cells. This finding suggests paracrine signalling between exogenously delivered cells and endogenous resident progenitors. It provides a rationale for therapeutic interventions aimed at activating progenitors or recruiting them from their niche to the injury site.

Figure 5. Proposed of action for cell-based therapies.

In theory, exogenously delivered cells may directly differentiate into endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells and cardiac myocytes. They may also release paracrine factors which may result in non-regenerative effects, such as immunomodulation, angiogenesis or cardioprotection. Recent work from our laboratory suggests that a dominant mechanism achieved with bone marrow progenitor therapy may be via the activation of endogenous progenitor recruitment (Loffredo et al, 2011).

Controlling the mitotic activity of mononucleated cardiac myocytes may provide an alternative approach to replenishing cardiac myocytes. A major concern with systemic growth factor therapy, however, is the potential for mitogenic effects that may impact other organs. Thus, the future of pharmacologic regeneration may lie in the local delivery of engineered proteins and small molecules that target 

Future directions

In this review, we have described the current status of research on cardiac regeneration, highlighting important recent discoveries and ongoing controversies. The initial hope that a cell progenitor would emerge with the capacity to regenerate the injured mammalian heart in the same manner that bone marrow may be reconstituted has not been realized.
Cardiac myocyte regeneration may lie in the local delivery of engineered proteins and small molecules that target specific survival, growth and differentiation pathways.

Pending issues

Dissect the mechanistic differences between adult mammals with limited regenerative capacity and organisms, such as neonatal mice, zebrafish and newts, that demonstrate unambiguous cardiac myocyte regeneration. Understanding these differences may reveal new pathways that can be therapeutically targeted to achieve more robust regeneration.

Complete molecular and functional characterization of endogenous cardiac myocyte progenitors. Multiple laboratories have isolated progenitors from the heart with different molecular characteristics. What are the in vivo functional roles of these progenitors? Do the observed molecular differences between these isolated cells represent functionally distinct cell types?

Identify paracrine signalling pathways responsible for activation and recruitment of endogenous cardiac myocyte progenitors. This may facilitate a pharmacoregenerative therapy, in which treatment with a protein or small molecule would hold the promise of amplifying endogenous regeneration.

Refine reprogramming strategies to more efficiently produce mature cardiac myocytes, both in vitro and in vivo. The ultimate bioengineering goal is to produce a pure population of mature, fully functional cardiac myocytes for ex vivo tissue engineering (or) to control the proliferation and differentiation of endogenous cell populations or exogenously delivered cell therapies such that scar tissue is replaced by myocardium. These different strategies are unified by an underlying requirement to understand the fundamental pathways involved in cardiac myocyte differentiation and maturation.

There is reason for optimism for a regenerative medicine approach to heart failure, given the intense research efforts and the capacity of higher organisms, including the neonatal mouse, to regenerate myocardium. Perhaps the most important issue in this field is identifying which findings are consistently supported by multiple experimental approaches. Ultimately, the findings that are easily reproduced by most or all laboratories will most likely benefit patients.

Selected references

Hsieh et al, 2007.  Hsieh PC, Segers VF, Davis ME, MacGillivray C, Gannon J, Molkentin JD, Robbins J, Lee RT (2007) Evidence from a genetic fate-mapping study that stem cells refresh adult mammalian cardiomyocytes after injury. Nat Med 13: 970¬974
Laugwitz et al, 2005.  Laugwitz KL, Moretti A, Lam J, Gruber P, Chen Y, Woodard S, Lin LZ, Cai CL, Lu MM, Reth M et al (2005) Postnatal isl1þ cardioblasts enter fully differentiated cardiomyocyte lineages. Nature 433: 647-653
Beltrami et al, 2003.  Beltrami AP, Barlucchi L, Torella D, Baker M, Limana F, Chimenti S, Kasahara H, Rota M, Musso E, Urbanek K et al (2003) Adult cardiac stem cells are multipotent and support myocardial regeneration. Cell 114: 763¬776
Oh et al, 2003. Oh H, Bradfute SB, Gallardo TD, Nakamura T, Gaussin V, Mishina Y, Pocius J, Michael LH, Behringer RR, Garry DJ et al (2003) Cardiac progenitor cells from adult myocardium: homing, differentiation, and fusion after infarction. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 100: 12313-12318
Segers & Lee, 2008.  Segers VF, Lee RT (2008) Stem-cell therapy for cardiac disease. Nature 451:937-942
Loffredo et al, 2011.  Loffredo FS, Steinhauser ML, Gannon J, Lee RT (2011) Bone marrow-derived cell therapy stimulates endogenous cardiomyocyte progenitors and promotes cardiac repair. Cell Stem Cell 8: 389-398.
Shi et al, 2008.  Shi Y, Desponts C, Do JT, Hahm HS, Scholer HR, Ding S (2008) Induction of pluripotent stem cells from mouse embryonic fibroblasts by Oct4 and Klf4 with small-molecule compounds. Cell Stem Cell 3: 568-574.
Warren et al, 2010.  Warren L, Manos PD, Ahfeldt T, Loh YH, Li H, Lau F, Ebina W, Mandal PK, Smith ZD, Meissner A et al (2010) Highly efficient reprogramming to pluripotency and directed differentiation of human cells with synthetic modified mRNA. Cell Stem Cell 7: 618-630.

Mammalian Heart Renewal by Preexisting Cardiomyocytes

SE Senyo, ML Steinhauser, CL Pizzimenti, VK. Yang, Lei Cai, Mei Wang, …,and Richard T. Lee
Cardiovascular and Genetics Divisions, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School,
INSERM, Orsay (Fr), Institut Curie, Laboratoire de Microscopie Ionique, Orsay (Fr), National Resource for Imaging Mass Spectrometry, Harvard Stem Cell Institute
Nature. 2013 January 17; 493(7432): 433–436.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature11682

Although recent studies have revealed that heart cells are generated in adult mammals, the frequency and source of new heart cells is unclear. Some studies suggest a high rate of stem cell activity with differentiation of progenitors to cardiomyocytes. Other studies suggest that new cardiomyocytes are born at a very low rate, and that they may be derived from division of pre-existing cardiomyocytes. Thus, the origin of cardiomyocytes in adult mammals remains unknown. Here we combined two different pulse-chase approaches — genetic fate-mapping with stable isotope labeling and Multi-isotope Imaging Mass Spectrometry (MIMS). We show that genesis of cardiomyocytes occurs at a low rate by division of pre-existing cardiomyocytes during normal aging, a process that increases by four-fold adjacent to areas of myocardial injury. Cell cycle activity during normal aging and after injury led to polyploidy and multinucleation, but also to new diploid, mononucleated cardiomyocytes. These data reveal pre-existing cardiomyocytes as the dominant source of cardiomyocyte replacement in normal mammalian myocardial homeostasis as well as after myocardial injury.

Despite intensive research, fundamental aspects of the mammalian heart’s capacity for self-renewal are actively debated. Estimates of cardiomyocyte turnover range from less than 1% per year to more than 40% per year. Turnover has been reported to either decrease or increase with age, while the source of new cardiomyocytes has been attributed to both division of existing myocytes and to progenitors residing within the heart or in exogenous niches such as bone marrow. Controversy persists regarding the plasticity of the adult heart in part due to methodological challenges associated with studying slowly replenished tissues. Toxicity attributed to radiolabeled thymidine and halogenated nucleotide analogues limits the duration of labeling and may produce direct biological effects. The challenge of measuring cardiomyocyte turnover is further compounded by the faster rate of turnover of cardiac stromal cells relative to cardiomyocytes.

We used Multi-isotope Imaging Mass Spectrometry (MIMS) to study cardiomyocyte turnover and to determine whether new cardiomyocytes are derived from preexisting myocytes or from a progenitor pool (Fig 1a). MIMS uses ion microscopy and mass spectrometry to generate high resolution quantitative mass images and localize stable isotope reporters in domains smaller than one micron cubed15,16,17. MIMS generates 14N quantitative mass images by measuring the atomic composition of the sample surface with a lateral resolution of under 50nm and a depth resolution of a few atomic layers. Cardiomyocyte cell borders and intracellular organelles were easily resolved (Fig 1b). Regions of interest can be analyzed at higher resolution, demonstrating cardiomyocyte-specific subcellular ultrastructure, including sarcomeres (Fig 1c, Supplemental Fig 1a). In all subsequent analyses, cardiomyocyte nuclei were identified by their location within sarcomere-containing cells, distinguishing them from adjacent stromal cells.
An immense advantage of MIMS is the detection of nonradioactive stable isotope tracers. As an integral part of animate and inanimate matter, they do not alter biochemical reactions and are not harmful to the organism18. MIMS localizes stable isotope tracers by simultaneously quantifying multiple masses from each analyzed domain; this enables the generation of a quantitative ratio image of two stable isotopes of the same element15. The incorporation of a tracer tagged with the rare stable isotope of nitrogen (15N) is detectable with high precision by an increase in 15N:14N above the natural ratio (0.37%). Nuclear incorporation of 15N-thymidine is evident in cells having divided during a one-week labeling period, as observed in the small intestinal epithelium, which turns over completely in 3–5 days16 (Fig 1d); in contrast, 15N-thymidine labeled cells are rarely observed in the heart (Fig 1e) after 1 week of labeling. In subsequent studies, small intestine was used as a positive control to confirm label delivery.
To evaluate for an age-related change in cell cycle activity, we administered 15N-thymidine for 8 weeks to three age groups of C57BL6 mice starting at day-4 (neonate), at 10-weeks (young adult) and at 22-months (old adult) (Supplemental Fig 2). We then performed MIMS analysis (Fig 2a, b, Supplemental Fig 3). In the neonatal group, 56% (±3% s.e.m., n=3 mice) of cardiomyocytes demonstrated 15N nuclear labeling, consistent with the well-accepted occurrence of cardiomyocyte DNA synthesis during post-natal development19. We observed a marked decline in the frequency of 15N-labeled cardiomyocyte nuclei (15N+CM) in the young adult (neonate= 1.00%15N+CM/day ±0.05 s.e.m. vs young adult=0.015% 15N+CM/ day ±0.003 s.e.m., n=3 mice/group, p<0.001) (Fig 2a, c; Supplemental Fig 3). We found a further reduction in cardiomyocyte DNA synthesis in old mice (young adult=0.015%15N+CM/day ±0.003 s.e.m. vs. old adult=0.007 %15N+CM/day ±0.002 s.e.m., n=3/group, p<0.05) (Fig 2c). The observed pattern of nuclear 15N-labeling in cardiomyocytes is consistent with the known chromatin distribution pattern in cardiomyocytes20 (Supplemental Fig 1b) and was measured at levels that could not be explained by DNA repair (Supplemental Fig 4). Extrapolating DNA synthesis measured in cardiomyocytes over 8 weeks yields a yearly rate of 5.5% in the young adult and 2.6% in the old mice. Given that cardiomyocytes are known to undergo DNA replication without completing the cell cycle19,21,22, these calculations represent the upper limit of cardiomyocyte generation under normal homeostatic conditions, indicating a low rate of cardiogenesis.
To test whether cell cycle activity occurred in preexisting cardiomyocytes or was dependent on a progenitor pool, we performed 15N-thymidine labeling of double-transgenic MerCreMer/ZEG mice, previously developed for genetic lineage mapping (Fig 3a)23,24. MerCreMer/ZEG cardiomyocytes irreversibly express green fluorescent protein (GFP) after treatment with 4OH-tamoxifen, allowing pulse labeling of existing cardiomyocytes with a reproducible efficiency of approximately 80%. Although some have reported rare GFP expression by non-cardiomyocytes with this approach25, we did not detect GFP expression in interstitial cells isolated from MerCreMer/ZEG hearts nor did we detect GFP expression by Sca1 or ckit-expressing progenitors in histological sections (Supplemental Fig 5). Thus, during a chase period, cardiomyocytes generated from progenitors should be GFP−, whereas cardiomyocytes arising from preexisting cardiomyocytes should express GFP at a frequency similar to the background rate induced by 4OH-tamoxifen. We administered 4OH-tamoxifen for two weeks to 8 wk-old mice (n=4); during a subsequent 10-week chase, mice received 15N-thymidine via osmotic minipump.

We next used MIMS and genetic fate mapping to study myocardial injury. Cardiomyocyte GFP labeling was induced in MerCreMer/ZEG mice with 4OH-tamoxifen. Mice then underwent experimental myocardial infarction or sham surgery followed by continuous labeling with 15N-thymidine for 8wks. The frequency of 15N-labeled cardiomyocytes in sham-operated mice was similar to prior experiments in unoperated mice (yearly projected rates: sham=6.8%; unoperated=4.4%), but increased significantly adjacent to infarcted myocardium (total 15N+ cardiomyocyte nuclei: MI=23.0% vs sham=1.1%, Fig 4a–b, Supplemental Fig 8). We examined GFP expression, nucleation and ploidy status of 15N-labeled cardiomyocytes and surrounding unlabeled cardiomyocytes. We found a significant dilution of the GFP+ cardiomyocyte pool at the border region as previously shown23,24 (67% vs. 79%, p<0.05, Table 2, Supplemental Fig 9); however, 15N+ myocytes demonstrated a similar frequency of GFP expression compared to unlabeled myocytes (71% vs. 67%, Fisher’s exact=n.s.), suggesting that DNA synthesis was primarily occurring in pre-existing cardiomyocytes. Of 15N-labeled cardiomyocytes, approximately 14% were mononucleated and diploid consistent with division of pre-existing cardiomyocytes (Supplemental Fig 6, 7). We observed higher DNA content (>2N) in the remaining cardiomyocytes as expected with compensatory hypertrophy after injury. Thus, in the 8wks after myocardial infarction, approximately 3.2% of the cardiomyocytes adjacent to the infarct had unambiguously undergone division (total 15N+ × mononucleated diploid fraction = 23% × 0.14 = 3.2%). The low rate of cardiomyocyte cell cycle completion is further supported by the absence of detectable Aurora B Kinase, a transiently expressed cytokinesis marker, which was detected in rapidly proliferating small intestinal cells but not in cardiomyocytes (Supplemental Fig 10). We also considered the possibility that a subset of 15N+ myocytes that were multinucleated and/or polyploid resulted from division followed by additional rounds of DNA synthesis without division. However, quantitative analysis of the 15N+ population did not identify a subpopulation that had accumulated additional 15N-label as would be expected in such a scenario (Supplemental Fig 11). Together, these data suggest that adult cardiomyocytes retain some capacity to reenter the cell cycle, but that the majority of DNA synthesis after injury occurs in preexisting cardiomyocytes without completion of cell division.
If dilution of the GFP+ cardiomyocyte pool cannot be attributed to division and differentiation of endogenous progenitors, do these data exclude a role for progenitors in the adult mammalian heart? These data could be explained by preferential loss of GFP+ cardiomyocytes after injury, a process that we have previously considered but for which we have not found supporting evidence23. Such an explanation excludes a role for endogenous progenitors in cardiac repair and would be consistent with data emerging from lower vertebrates8,26 and the neonatal mouse27 in which preexisting cardiomyocytes are the cellular source for cardiomyocyte repletion. A second possibility to explain the dilution of the GFP+ cardiomyocyte pool is that injury stimulates progenitor differentiation without division; inevitably, this would lead to exhaustion of the progenitor pool, which if true could explain the limited regenerative potential of the adult mammalian heart.

In summary, this study demonstrates birth of cardiomyocytes from preexisting cardiomyocytes at a projected rate of approximately 0.76%/year (15N+ annual rate × mononucleated diploid fraction = 4.4% × 0.17) in the young adult mouse under normal homeostatic conditions, a rate that declines with age but increases by approximately four-fold after myocardial injury in the border region. This study shows that cardiac progenitors do not play a significant role in myocardial homeostasis in mammals and suggests that their role after injury is also limited.

Engineering insulin-like growth factor-1 for local delivery

T Tokunou, R Miller, P Patwari, ME Davis, VFM Segers, AJ Grodzinsky, and RT Lee
Cardiovascular Division, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA and Biological Engineering, MIT, Cambridge, MA
FASEB J. 2008 June ; 22(6): 1886–1893.   http://dx.doi.org/10.1096/fj.07-100925

Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) is a small protein that promotes cell survival and growth, often acting over long distances. Although for decades IGF-1 has been considered to have therapeutic potential, systemic side effects of IGF-1 are significant, and local delivery of IGF-1 for tissue repair has been a long-standing challenge. In this study, we designed and purified a novel protein, heparin-binding IGF-1 (Xp-HB-IGF-1), which is a fusion protein of native IGF-1 with the heparin-binding domain of heparin-binding epidermal growth factor-like growth factor. Xp-HB-IGF-1 bound selectively to heparin as well as the cell surfaces of 3T3 fibroblasts, neonatal cardiac myocytes and differentiating ES cells. Xp-HB-IGF-1 activated the IGF-1 receptor and Akt with identical kinetics and dose response, indicating no compromise of biological activity due to the heparin-binding domain. Because cartilage is a proteoglycan-rich environment and IGF-1 is a known stimulus for chondrocyte biosynthesis, we then studied the effectiveness of Xp-HB-IGF-1 in cartilage. Xp-HB-IGF-1 was selectively retained by cartilage explants and led to sustained chondrocyte proteoglycan biosynthesis compared to IGF-1. These data show that the strategy of engineering a “long-distance” growth factor like IGF-1 for local delivery may be useful for tissue repair and minimizing systemic effects.

INSULIN-LIKE GROWTH FACTOR-1 (IGF-1) is a growth factor well known as an important mediator of cell growth and differentiation. IGF-1 stimulates several signaling pathways through the tyrosine kinase IGF-1 receptor, including phosphatidylinositol (PI) 3-kinase and mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs). PI3-kinase has many downstream targets, including the kinase Akt, and activation of Akt promotes survival, proliferation, and growth.
IGF-1 has been extensively studied for its therapeutic potential in tissue repair and regeneration. IGF-1 is a small and highly diffusible protein that can act over long distances. However, systemic administration of IGF-1 has significant side effects as well as the potential to promote diabetic retinopathy and cancer. Therefore, local delivery of IGF-1 has been a longstanding challenge. Here, we describe the design of a new protein, formed by fusion of IGF-1 with the heparin-binding (HB) domain of heparin-binding epidermal growth factor-like growth factor (HB-EGF). HB-EGF binds selectively to glycosaminoglycans through its highly positively charged heparin-binding domain.

Thus, we hypothesized that engineering IGF-1 to bind to glycosaminoglycans could provide selective delivery of IGF-1 to cell surfaces or to specific tissues. We demonstrate that this heparin-binding IGF-1 (Xp-HB-IGF-1) can bind to cell surfaces as well as the proteoglycan-rich tissue of cartilage; furthermore, Xp-HB-IGF-1 prolongs the stimulation of chondrocyte biosynthesis, demonstrating its potential for tissue specific repair.

Purification of Xp-HB-IGF-1

Figure 1A—C shows the constructs for Xp-HB-IGF-1 and the control Xp-IGF-1 fusion proteins.

IGF-1 has 3 disulfide bonds and includes 70 amino acids. The IGF-1 fusion proteins both contain polyhistidine tags for protein purification and Xpress tags for protein detection. The expected molecular masses of Xp-HB-IGF-1 and Xp-IGF-1 are 14,018 and 11,548 Da, respectively. Xp-HB-IGF-1 has the HB domain on the N terminus of IGF-1. The HB domain has 21 amino acids and includes 12 positively charged amino acids. Final purification of the new fusion proteins after refolding was performed with RP-HPLC (Fig. 1D, E). Identification of the correctly folded protein was performed as described previously and confirmed with bioactivity assays. These 3 IGF-1s (Xp-HB-IGF-1, Xp-IGF-1, and unmodified IGF-1) yielded similar intensities.

Xp-HB-IGF-1 binds to heparin and cell surfaces

1. Xp-HB-IGF-1 binds selectively to heparin compared with Xp-IGF-1 (Fig. 2A).
2. Xp-HB-IGF-1 bound to 3T3 fibroblast cells when treated with 10 and 100 nM concentrations.
3. Xp-HB-IGF-1 binds with neonatal cardiac myocytes, with clear selective binding of Xp-HB-IGF-1 (Fig 2C)
4. These results are consistent with binding of this HB domain to heparan sulfate in the submicromolar range
5. Xp-HB-IGF-1 was readily detected on the surfaces of ES cells in embryoid bodies — which contain multiple cell types.
6. There is more Xpress epitope tag in Xp-HB-IGF-1 group than the Xp-IGF-1 group, suggesting that Xp-HB-IGF-1 binds with heparan sulfate on the cell surface.

Xp-HB-IGF-1 bioactivity

Bioassays for IGF-1 receptor phosphorylation and Akt activation were performed. Control IGF-1, Xp-HB-IGF-1, and Xp-IGF-1 all activated the IGF-1 receptor of neonatal cardiac myocytes dose-dependently and induced Akt phosphorylation identically (Fig. 3A), and they  activated Akt with a similar time course (Fig. 3B), indicating — addition of the heparin-binding domain does not interfere with the bioactivity of IGF-1.

  1. Xp-HB-IGF-1 transport in cartilage
  2. Cartilage is a proteoglycan-rich tissue, and chondrocytes respond to IGF-1 with increased extracellular matrix synthesis (19). Because prolonged local stimulation of IGF-1 signaling could thus be beneficial for cartilage repair, we studied the ability of Xp-HB-IGF-1 to bind to cartilage.
  3. Xp-HB-IGF-1 is selectively retained by cartilage, while Xp-IGF-1 is rapidly lost.
  4. Xp-HB-IGF-1 can bind to cartilage after chondroitin sulfate digestion

To explore the possibility of nonspecific binding of Xp-HB-IGF-1 to glycosaminoglycans other than heparan sulfate, we studied the binding of Xp-HB-IGF-1 after chondroitinase ABC digestion.
Xp-HB-IGF-1 retention is not mediated by the pool of chondroitin sulfated proteoglycans in the cartilage matrix.

  1. Xp-HB-IGF-1 increases chondrocyte biosynthesis
  2. Xp-HB-IGF-1, which is selectively retained in the cartilage, stimulates chondrocyte biosynthesis over a more sustained period.

DISCUSSION

In this study, we describe a novel IGF-1 protein, Xp-HB-IGF-1, which binds to proteoglycan-rich tissue and cell surfaces but has the same bioactivity as IGF-1. Our data indicate that Xp-HB-IGF-1 can activate the IGF-1 receptor and Akt and thus that the heparin-binding domain does not interfere with interactions of IGF-1 and its receptor. IGF-1 has four domains: B domain (aa 1–29), C domain (aa 30 – 41), A domain (aa 42–62) and D domain (aa 63–70), with the C domain playing the most important role in binding to the IGF-1 receptor. Replacement of the entire C domain causes a 30-fold decrease in affinity for the IGF-1 receptor. Thus, the addition of the heparin-binding domain to the N terminus of IGF-1 was not anticipated to interfere with interactions with the IGF-1 C domain.
Both extracellular matrix and cell surfaces are rich in proteoglycans and can serve as reservoirs for proteoglycan-binding growth factors. A classic example is the fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2) system, where a low-affinity, high-capacity pool of proteoglycan receptors serves as a reservoir of FGF-2 for its high-affinity receptor. Our experiments suggest that Xp-HB-IGF-1 could function in some circumstances in a similar manner, since Xp-HB-IGF-1 is selectively retained on cell surfaces. Many growth factors are known to interact with heparan sulfate, including HB-EGF (10-12), FGF-2 (26), vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A), transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) (28), platelet-derived growth factors (PDGFs), and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). However, other proteins such as nerve growth factor (NGF), which induces differentiation and reduces apoptosis of neurons, does not have the heparin-binding domain. Thus, the strategy of engineering growth factors for selective matrix or cell surface binding could be used for other growth factors.
IGF-1 can also bind with extracellular matrix via IGF binding proteins (IGFBPs); in the circulation, at least 99% of IGF-1 is bound to IGFBPs (IGFBP-1 to −6). Further experiments are necessary to determine whether addition of a heparin-binding domain to IGF-1 changes interactions with IGFBPs and whether this changes its biological activity.
IGF-1 can promote the synthesis of cartilage extracellular matrix and inhibit cartilage degradation (19); however, a practical mode of IGF-1 delivery to cartilage has yet to be developed (33). Heparan sulfate proteoglycans are prevalent in the pericellular matrix of cartilage, particularly as chains on perlecan and syndecan-2, and are known to bind other ligands such as FGF-2 (34). Our experiments suggest that Xp-HB-IGF-1 protein can bind with matrix and increase local, long-term bioavailability to chondrocytes and thus may improve cartilage repair.

Selected References

Hameed M, Orrell RW, Cobbold M, Goldspink G, Harridge SD. Expression of IGF-I splice variants in young and old human skeletal muscle after high resistance exercise. J. Physiol 2003;547:247–254. [PubMed: 12562960]
Shavlakadze T, Winn N, Rosenthal N, Grounds MD. Reconciling data from transgenic mice that overexpress IGF-I specifically in skeletal muscle. Growth Horm. IGF Res 2005;15:4–18. [PubMed: 15701567]
Milner SJ, Francis GL, Wallace JC, Magee BA, Ballard FJ. Mutations in the B-domain of insulin-like growth factor-I influence the oxidative folding to yield products with modified biological properties. Biochem. J 1995;308(Pt 3):865–871. [PubMed: 8948444]
Milner SJ, Carver JA, Ballard FJ, Francis GL. Probing the disulfide folding pathway of insulin-like growth factor-I. Biotechnol. Bioeng 1999;62:693–703. [PubMed: 9951525]
Bonassar LJ, Grodzinsky AJ, Srinivasan A, Davila SG, Trippel SB. Mechanical and physicochemical regulation of the action of insulin-like growth factor-I on articular cartilage. Arch. Biochem. Biophys 2000;379:57–63. [PubMed: 10864441]
Denley A, Cosgrove LJ, Booker GW, Wallace JC, Forbes BE. Molecular interactions of the IGF system. Cytokine Growth Factor Rev 2005;16:421–439. [PubMed: 15936977]
Musaro A, Dobrowolny G, Rosenthal N. The neuroprotective effects of a locally acting IGF-1 isoform. Exp. Gerontol 2007;42:76–80. [PubMed: 16782294]
Farndale RW, Buttle DJ, Barrett AJ. Improved quantitation and discrimination of sulphated glycosaminoglycans by use of dimethylmethylene blue. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1986;883:173–177. [PubMed: 3091074]
Yayon A, Klagsbrun M, Esko JD, Leder P, Ornitz DM. Cell surface, heparin-like molecules are required for binding of basic fibroblast growth factor to its high affinity receptor. Cell 1991;64:841– 848. [PubMed: 1847668]
Martin P. Wound healing—aiming for perfect skin regeneration. Science 1997;276:75–81. [PubMed: 9082989]

Figure 1.  Construction and purification of a new Xp-HB-IGF-1 fusion protein.

Figure 1.  Construction and purification of a new Xp-HB-IGF-1 fusion protein.

A) The heparin binding domain of HB-EGF was inserted N-terminal to IGF-1 to generate the fusion protein. The construct included the hexahistidine and Xpress tags from the pTrcHis vector for purification and detection. B) The resulting amino acid sequence of HB-IGF-1. C) Schematic for the structure of HB-IGF-1. Red circles: positively charged amino acids; blue circles: negatively charged amino acids; yellow circles: cysteines. The arrow shows the HB domain. In this figure the epitope tags are not shown. D, E) Representative reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography (RP-HPLC) elution profiles with single peaks containing correctly folded protein. Readings of optical density at 214 nm are in blue; readings at 280 nm are in red; elution is by acetonitrile (ACN) gradient. F) After RP-HPLC, Coomassie blue staining and Western blot analysis demonstrate isolation of single bands containing Xpress-tagged protein. The right panel shows that the Western blot analysis of IGF-1, and the two engineered IGF-1 proteins yield similar results using an anti-IGF-1 antibody.

Protein Therapeutics for Cardiac Regeneration after Myocardial Infarction

Vincent F.M. Segers and Richard T. Lee
Provasculon Inc, 14 Cambridge Center, and Harvard Stem Cell Institute and the Cardiovascular Division, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA
J Cardiovasc Transl Res. 2010 October ; 3(5): 469–477.   http://dx.doi./10.1007/s12265-010-9207-5.

Although most medicines have historically been small molecules, many newly approved drugs are derived from proteins. Protein therapies have been developed for treatment of diseases in almost every organ system, including the heart. Great excitement has now arisen in the field of regenerative medicine, particularly for cardiac regeneration after myocardial infarction. Every year, millions of people suffer from acute myocardial infarction, but the adult mammalian myocardium has limited regeneration potential. Regeneration of the heart after myocardium infarction is therefore an exciting target for protein therapeutics.  

In this review, we discuss different classes of proteins that have therapeutic potential to regenerate the heart after myocardial infarction. Protein candidates have been described that induce angiogenesis, including fibroblast growth factors and vascular endothelial growth factors, although thus far clinical development has been disappointing. Chemotactic factors that attract stem cells, e.g. hepatocyte growth factor and stromal cell derived factor-1, may also be useful. Finally, neuregulins and periostin are proteins that induce cell cycle reentry of cardiomyocytes, and growth factors like IGF-1 can induce growth and differentiation of stem cells. As our knowledge of the biology of regenerative processes and the role of specific proteins in these processes increases, the use of proteins as regenerative drugs could develop as a cardiac therapy.
Keywords: protein therapeutics; myocardial infarction; regeneration; heart failure

The current standard of care for MI is early reperfusion of the occluded vessel with angioplasty or thrombolysis to reverse ischemia and increase the number of surviving myocytes. Efforts to decrease delays between onset of symptoms and reperfusion have resulted in decreased morbidity and mortality, but the maximal benefit of early reperfusion has reached a point close to practical limits. Besides early reperfusion therapy, ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers are used to prevent remodeling after MI and progression to heart failure. Both ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers improve long term survival but no therapies besides cardiac transplantation are currently available that restore cardiac function.
In the last decade, a large number of pre-clinical and clinical studies have been published on the potential use of stem cells for cardiac regeneration after MI. Different stem cell types have been shown to improve cardiac function in animal studies and can induce a small but potentially significant increase in ejection fraction in clinical studies. Stem cell therapy is a promising treatment option for heart failure, but numerous technical challenges and gaps in our understanding of stem cell behavior may limit translation to the clinic.
With the advent of biotechnology, protein and peptide drugs are becoming increasingly important in modern medicine. Drugs based on naturally-occurring proteins have the advantage of efficacy based on a mechanism of action refined by millions of years of biological evolution. Though promising as therapeutics, proteins might behave differently when used at pharmacological instead of physiological concentrations with an increase in adverse effects on other organs. Proteins used as therapeutics have been modified in different ways to limit immunogenicity and rapid degradation in plasma and tissues.
We discuss four different classes of proteins that could potentially benefit patients with MI (Figure 1); all of these proteins have been shown to improve cardiac function in animal models of MI or heart failure. They include angiogenic growth factors, proteins that increase recruitment of progenitor cells to the heart, proteins that induce mitosis of existing myocytes, and proteins that increase differentiation and growth of stem cells and myocytes. As more is learned about cardiac regeneration and why mammals lack sufficient myocardial regeneration, more proteins are likely to be added to this list of candidates.

A decade of extensive research on cardiac stem cell biology revealed 1 protein (G-CSF) that can be used to mobilize hematopoietic stem cells and just 2 proteins with chemotactic properties on stem cells: SDF-1 on endothelial progenitor cells and HGF on cardiac stem cells. Another protein that has been identified as a stem cell attractant is monocyte chemotactic protein-3 which attracts mesenchymal stem cells [42]. It is unknown if local administration of MCP-3 improves cardiac function. Identification of new stem cell chemotactic proteins is important because it could lead to the development of new and feasible therapeutics for treatment of MI and heart failure. At the same time, the true regenerative potential of most stem cells remains highly controversial; indicating that even if a chemotactic factor attracting stem cells to the heart is identified, formation of functional myocardial is still a challenging task.

Proteins like periostin and neuregulin which stimulate mitosis of surviving myocytes can partially restore the damage inflicted by MI. However, some requirements have to be met before this will result in a viable therapy. An inherent selectivity for myocytes would also allow for systemic delivery as opposed to the use of more complicated local delivery methods. An important factor to consider is the duration of the signal necessary to induce mitosis in a significant number of myocytes. A protein that induces cell cycle reentry in a significant fraction of myocytes with a single pulse has more therapeutical potential than a protein that needs sustained or repeated delivery. Ideally, pro-mitotic proteins will be not only specific for myocytes in general but might also be specific for myocytes in the border zone of the MI. This has drawbacks, among which is that formation of new myocytes, either by stem cell differentiation or by myocyte mitosis, carries an increased risk of ventricular arrhythmias.

Figure 1. Regeneration of the heart by 4 different classes of proteins

Figure 1. Regeneration of the heart by 4 different classes of proteins

See text for details. A) FGF and VEGF increase angiogenesis. B) G-CSF mobilizes bone marrow hematopoietic stem cells and SDF-1 attracts endothelial progenitor cells. HGF attracts cardiac stem cells. C) Neuregulin and periostin can induce division of adult cardiomyocytes. D) IGF-1 induces maturation and differentiation of cardiac stem cells.

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