Introduction: Myocardial fibrosis contributes to hemodynamic and cardiac functional alterations commonly observed posttransplantation. Cardiac mast cells (MC) have been linked to fibrosis in posttransplantation hearts. Eotaxin, which has been shown to be involved in fibrogenesis, has been demonstrated to be increased in production in cardiac macrophages. The aim of our study was to correlate myocardial fibrosis during heart transplant rejection in the rat with eotaxin/chemokine [c-c motif] ligand 11 (CCL11) expression, and with various subtypes of infiltrating cardiac MC, namely connective-type MC (CTMC) and mucosa-type MC (MMC).
Methods: We used tissues from 2 previous studies of ongoing acute rejection in allogeneic Brown-Norway to Lewis rat and an isogeneic Brown-Norway to Brown-Norway heterotopic heart transplantation models under cyclosporin/prednisolone immunosuppression. Collagen fibrils were stained with Masson's trichrome with myocardial fibrosis expressed as percent fibrotic area per total section area. Eotaxin/CCL11 previously measured in heart tissue using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was correlated with the extent of myocardial fibrosis. We compared values from native hearts (n = 4) as well as transplants on days 5, 16, and 28 (n = 4 in each group).
Results: The area of myocardial fibrosis was significantly increased in the allogeneic compared with the isogeneic group at day 16 (38% vs 21%) and at day 28 (49% vs 22%) after transplantation. Myocardial fibrosis correlated significantly with eotaxin/CCL11 concentrations and the density of MMC, but not with CTMC in heart tissue.
Conclusions: Eotaxin-triggered MC infiltration of the heart may contribute to myocardial fibrosis after transplantation. Targeting eotaxin/CCL11 with monoclonal antibodies, such as bertilimumab, could reduce MC infiltration, possibly resulting in decreased myocardial fibrosis and improved contractile function after heart transplantation.
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