Abolishing Myofibroblast Arrhythmogeneicity by Pharmacological Ablation of α-Smooth Muscle Actin Containing Stress Fibers
Rationale: Myofibroblasts typically appear in the myocardium after insults to the heart like mechanical overload and infarction. Apart from contributing to fibrotic remodeling, myofibroblasts induce arrhythmogenic slow conduction and ectopic activity in cardiomyocytes after establishment of heterocellular electrotonic coupling in vitro. So far, it is not known whether α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) containing stress fibers, the cytoskeletal components that set myofibroblasts apart from resident fibroblasts, are essential for myofibroblasts to develop arrhythmogenic interaction with cardiomyocytes.
Objective: We investigated whether pharmacological ablation of α-SMA containing stress fibers by actin-targeting drugs affects arrhythmogenic myofibroblast–cardiomyocyte cross-talk.
Methods and Results: Experiments were performed with patterned growth cell cultures of neonatal rat ventricular cardiomyocytes coated with cardiac myofibroblasts. The preparations exhibited slow conduction and ectopic activity under control conditions. Exposure to actin-targeting drugs (Cytochalasin D, Latrunculin B, Jasplakinolide) for 24 hours led to disruption of α-SMA containing stress fibers. In parallel, conduction velocities increased dose-dependently to values indistinguishable from cardiomyocyte-only preparations and ectopic activity measured continuously over 24 hours were completely suppressed. Mechanistically, antiarrhythmic effects were attributable to myofibroblast hyperpolarization (Cytochalasin D, Latrunculin B) and disruption of heterocellular gap junctional coupling (Jasplakinolide), which caused normalization of membrane polarization of adjacent cardiomyocytes.
Conclusions: The results suggest that α-SMA containing stress fibers importantly contribute to myofibroblast arrhythmogeneicity. After ablation of this cytoskeletal component, cells lose their arrhythmic effects on cardiomyocytes, even if heterocellular electrotonic coupling is sustained. The findings identify α-SMA containing stress fibers as a potential future target of antiarrhythmic therapy in hearts undergoing structural remodeling.
- Received March 15, 2011.
- Revision received August 22, 2011.
- Accepted September 7, 2011.
- © 2011 American Heart Association, Inc.