Date: 25 Mar 2011

Intercellular and extracellular mechanotransduction in cardiac myocytes

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Abstract

Adult cardiomyocytes are terminally differentiated with minimal replicative capacity. Therefore, long-term preservation or enhancement of cardiac function depends on structural adaptation. Myocytes interact with the extracellular matrix, fibroblasts, and vascular cells and with each other (end to end; side to side). We review the current understanding of the mechanical determinants and environmental sensing systems that modulate and regulate myocyte molecular machinery and its structural organization. We feature the design and application of engineered cellular microenvironments to demonstrate the ability of cardiac cells to remodel their cytoskeletal organization and shape, including sarcomere/myofibrillar architectural topography. Cell shape-dependent functions result from complex mechanical interactions between the cytoskeleton architecture and external conditions, be they cell–cell or cell–extracellular matrix (ECM) adhesion contact-mediated. This mechanobiological perspective forms the basis for viewing the cardiomyocyte as a mechanostructural anisotropic continuum, exhibiting constant mechanosensory-driven self-regulated adjustment of the cytoskeleton through tight interplay between its force generation activity and concurrent cytoarchitectural remodeling. The unifying framework guiding this perspective is the observation that these emerging events and properties are initiated by and respond to cytoskeletal reorganization, regulated by cell–cell and cell–ECM adhesion and its corresponding (mutually interactive) signaling machinery. It is important for future studies to elucidate how cross talk between these mechanical signals is coordinated to control myocyte structure and function. Ultimately, understanding how the highly interactive mechanical signaling can give rise to phenotypic changes is critical for targeting the underlying pathways that contribute to cardiac remodeling associated with various forms of dilated and hypertrophic myopathies, myocardial infarction, heart failure, and reverse remodeling.

This article is published as part of the DeTombe/Grazier Special Issue on The cytoskeleton and the cellular transduction of mechanical strain.