Research Summary: Congestive Heart Failure Effects on Atrial Fibroblast Phenotype: Differences between Freshly-Isolated and Cultured Cells



Fibroblasts are important in the atrial fibrillation (AF) substrate resulting from congestive heart failure (CHF). We previously noted changes in in vivo indices of fibroblast function in a CHF dog model, but could not detect changes in isolated cells. This study assessed CHF-induced changes in the phenotype of fibroblasts freshly isolated from control versus CHF dogs, and examined effects of cell culture on these differences.


Left-atrial fibroblasts were isolated from control and CHF dogs (ventricular tachypacing 240 bpm×2 weeks). Freshly-isolated fibroblasts were compared to fibroblasts in primary culture. Extracellular-matrix (ECM) gene-expression was assessed by qPCR, protein by Western blot, fibroblast morphology with immunocytochemistry, and K+-current with patch-clamp. Freshly-isolated CHF fibroblasts had increased expression-levels of collagen-1 (10-fold), collagen-3 (5-fold), and fibronectin-1 (3-fold) vs. control, along with increased cell diameter (13.4±0.4 µm vs control 8.4±0.3 µm) and cell spreading (shape factor 0.81±0.02 vs. control 0.87±0.02), consistent with an activated phenotype. Freshly-isolated control fibroblasts displayed robust tetraethylammonium (TEA)-sensitive K+-currents that were strongly downregulated in CHF. The TEA-sensitive K+-current differences between control and CHF fibroblasts were attenuated after 2-day culture and eliminated after 7 days. Similarly, cell-culture eliminated the ECM protein-expression and shape differences between control and CHF fibroblasts.


Freshly-isolated CHF and control atrial fibroblasts display distinct ECM-gene and morphological differences consistent with in vivo pathology. Culture for as little as 48 hours activates fibroblasts and obscures the effects of CHF. These results demonstrate potentially-important atrial-fibroblast phenotype changes in CHF and emphasize the need for caution in relating properties of cultured fibroblasts to in vivo systems.


Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 14-December-2012

Author(s): Dawson K., Wu C., Qi X., Nattel S.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *