Diastolic dysfunction in the aging heart is a grave condition that challenges the life and lifestyle of a growing segment of our population. This report seeks to examine the role and interrelationship of inflammatory dysregulation in interstitial myocardial fibrosis and progressive diastolic dysfunction in aging mice. We studied a population of C57BL/6 mice that developed progressive diastolic dysfunction over 30 months of life. This progressive dysfunction was associated with increasing infiltration of CD45(+) fibroblasts of myeloid origin. In addition, increased rates of collagen expression as measured by cellular procollagen were apparent in the heart as a function of age. These cellular and functional changes were associated with progressive increases in mRNA for MCP-1 and IL-13, which correlated both temporally and quantitatively with changes in fibrosis and cellular procollagen levels. MCP-1 protein was also increased and found to be primarily in the venular endothelium. Protein assays also demonstrated elevation of IL-4 and IL-13 suggesting a shift to a Th2 phenotype in the aging heart. In vitro studies demonstrated that IL-13 markedly enhanced monocyte-fibroblast transformation. Our results indicate that immunoinflammatory dysregulation in the aging heart induces progressive MCP-1 production and an increased shift to a Th2 phenotype paralleled by an associated increase in myocardial interstitial fibrosis, cellular collagen synthesis, and increased numbers of CD45(+) myeloid-derived fibroblasts that contain procollagen. The temporal association and functional correlations suggest a causative relationship between age-dependent immunoinflammatory dysfunction, fibrosis and diastolic dysfunction.
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