Human epicardial adipose tissue induces fibrosis of the atrial myocardium through the secretion of adipo-fibrokines

Eur Heart J. 2015 Apr 1;36(13):795-805a. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/eht099. Epub 2013 Mar 22.


Aims: Recent studies have reported a relationship between the abundance of epicardial adipose tissue (EAT) and the risk of cardiovascular diseases including atrial fibrillation (AF). However, the underlying mechanisms are unknown. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of the secretome of human EAT on the histological properties of the myocardium.

Methods and results: Samples of EAT and subcutaneous adipose (SAT), obtained from 39 patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery, were analysed and tested in an organo-culture model of rat atria to evaluate the fibrotic properties of human fat depots. The EAT secretome induced global fibrosis (interstitial and peripheral) of rat atria in organo-culture conditions. Activin A was highly expressed in EAT compared with SAT and promoted atrial fibrosis, an effect blocked using neutralizing antibody. In addition, Activin A levels were enhanced in patients with low left-ventricular function. In sections of human atrial and ventricular myocardium, adipose and myocardial tissues were in close contact, together with fibrosis.

Conclusion: This study provides the first evidence that the secretome from EAT promotes myocardial fibrosis through the secretion of adipo-fibrokines such as Activin A.

Keywords: Activin A; Atrial fibrillation; Atrial fibrosis; Epicardial adipose tissue; Myocardial fibrosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activins / metabolism
  • Activins / physiology
  • Adipokines / metabolism*
  • Adipokines / physiology
  • Adipose Tissue / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Atrial Fibrillation / metabolism
  • Atrial Fibrillation / pathology
  • Atrial Remodeling / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Fibrosis / etiology
  • Fibrosis / pathology
  • Heart Atria / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 8 / metabolism
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 8 / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardium / pathology*
  • Rats
  • Subcutaneous Fat / physiology


  • Adipokines
  • activin A
  • Activins
  • MMP8 protein, human
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 8