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Redefining the identity of cardiac fibroblasts

Key Points

  • Cardiac fibroblasts are critical regulators of the basal structure of the heart and are also responsible for remodelling and fibrosis after injury

  • The identity and origin of disease-activated fibroblasts within the heart has been an ongoing debate

  • Tissue-resident fibroblasts of embryonic origin are interspersed throughout the adult mouse heart and comprise 10% of the total cell content

  • Recent studies indicate that tissue-resident fibroblasts differentiate into and constitute the majority of disease-activated fibroblasts and myofibroblasts after cardiac injury

  • Activated fibroblasts or myofibroblasts within the injured mouse heart are not appreciably derived from other non-tissue-resident fibroblast cell sources

Abstract

Cardiac fibroblasts deposit and maintain extracellular matrix during organogenesis and under physiological conditions. In the adult heart, activated cardiac fibroblasts also participate in the healing response after acute myocardial infarction and during chronic disease states characterized by augmented interstitial fibrosis and ventricular remodelling. However, delineation of the characteristics, plasticity, and origins of cardiac fibroblasts is an area of ongoing investigation and controversy. A set of genetic mouse models has been developed that specifically addresses the nature of these cells, in terms of both their origins and their response during cardiac disease and ventricular remodelling. As our understanding of cardiac fibroblasts becomes more defined and refined, so does the potential to develop new therapeutic strategies to control fibrosis and adverse ventricular remodelling.

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Figure 1: Current categories of resident cardiac fibroblasts.
Figure 2: Developmental and alternative sources of fibroblasts.
Figure 3: Lineage tracing of resident cardiac fibroblasts.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Jill T. Kuwabara from the Tallquist Laboratory, University of Hawaii, USA, for the original images in Figure 3.

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Both authors researched data for the article, discussed its content, wrote the manuscript, and reviewed/edited it before submission.

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Correspondence to Michelle D. Tallquist or Jeffery D. Molkentin.

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Tallquist, M., Molkentin, J. Redefining the identity of cardiac fibroblasts. Nat Rev Cardiol 14, 484–491 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrcardio.2017.57

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