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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Volume (Issue) 7
Page(s) 496
Title of proceedings FRONTIERS IN PHYSIOLOGY
DOI 10.3389/fphys.2016.00496

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Fibrotic myocardial remodeling is typically accompanied by the appearance of myofibroblasts (MFBs). In vitro, MFBs were shown to slow conduction and precipitate ectopic activity following gap junctional coupling to cardiomyocytes (CMCs). To gain further mechanistic insights into this arrhythmogenic MFB-CMC crosstalk, we performed numerical simulations in cell-based high-resolution two-dimensional tissue models that replicated experimental conditions. Cell dimensions were determined using confocal microscopy of single and co-cultured neonatal rat ventricular CMCs and MFBs. Conduction was investigated as a function of MFB density in three distinct cellular tissue architectures: CMC strands with endogenous MFBs, CMC strands with coating MFBs of two different sizes, and CMC strands with MFB inserts. Simulations were performed to identify individual contributions of heterocellular gap junctional coupling and of the specific electrical phenotype of MFBs. With increasing MFB density, both endogenous and coating MFBs slowed conduction. At MFB densities of 5–30%, conduction slowing was most pronounced in strands with endogenous MFBs due to the MFB-dependent increase in axial resistance. At MFB densities >40%, very slow conduction and spontaneous activity was primarily due to MFB-induced CMC depolarization. Coating MFBs caused non-uniformities of resting membrane potential, which were more prominent with large than with small MFBs. In simulations of MFB inserts connecting two CMC strands, conduction delays increased with increasing insert lengths and block appeared for inserts >1.2 mm. Thus, electrophysiological properties of engineered CMC-MFB co-cultures depend on MFB density, MFB size and their specific positioning in respect to CMCs. These factors may influence conduction characteristics in the heterocellular myocardium.