We have demonstrated that scar formation after myocardial infarction (MI) is associated with an endogenous pool of CD44(pos)CD45(neg) multipotential mesenchymal stem cells (MSC). MSC differentiate into fibroblasts secreting collagen that forms a scar and mature into myofibroblasts that express alpha smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) that stabilizes the scar. In the aging mouse, cardiac repair after MI is associated with impaired differentiation of MSC; MSC derived from the aged hearts form dysfunctional fibroblasts that deposit less collagen in response to transforming growth factor beta-1 (TGF-β1) and poorly mature into myofibroblasts. We found in vitro that the defect in myofibroblast maturation can be remedied by AICAR, which activates non-canonical TGF-β signaling through AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). In the present study, we injected aged mice with AICAR and subjected them to 1h occlusion of the left anterior descending artery (LAD) and then reperfusion for up to 30days. AICAR-dependent AMPK signaling led to mobilization of an endogenous CD44(pos)CD45(neg) MSC and its differentiation towards fibroblasts and myofibroblasts in the infarct. This was accompanied by enhanced collagen deposition and collagen fiber maturation in the scar. The AICAR-treated group has demonstrated reduced adverse remodeling as indicated by improved apical end diastolic dimension but no changes in ejection fraction and cardiac output were observed. We concluded that these data indicate the novel, previously not described role of AMPK in the post-MI scar formation. These findings can potentially lead to a new therapeutic strategy for prevention of adverse remodeling in the aging heart.
Keywords: AMPK; Aging; Fibroblast; MSC; Myocardial infarction; Scar formation.