Changes in cardiac resident fibroblast physiology and phenotype in aging

Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2018 Oct 1;315(4):H745-H755. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00237.2018. Epub 2018 Jun 15.


The cardiac fibroblast plays a central role in tissue homeostasis and in repair after injury. With aging, dysregulated cardiac fibroblasts have a reduced capacity to activate a canonical transforming growth factor-β-Smad pathway and differentiate poorly into contractile myofibroblasts. That results in the formation of an insufficient scar after myocardial infarction. In contrast, in the uninjured aged heart, fibroblasts are activated and acquire a profibrotic phenotype that leads to interstitial fibrosis, ventricular stiffness, and diastolic dysfunction, all conditions that may lead to heart failure. There is an apparent paradox in aging, wherein reparative fibrosis is impaired but interstitial, adverse fibrosis is augmented. This could be explained by analyzing the effectiveness of signaling pathways in resident fibroblasts from young versus aged hearts. Whereas defective signaling by transforming growth factor-β leads to insufficient scar formation by myofibroblasts, enhanced activation of the ERK1/2 pathway may be responsible for interstitial fibrosis mediated by activated fibroblasts. Listen to this article's corresponding podcast at .

Keywords: aging; fibroblast, fibrosis; heart.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Heart / physiology
  • Humans
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System
  • Myofibroblasts / cytology
  • Myofibroblasts / metabolism*
  • Myofibroblasts / physiology
  • Phenotype*
  • Regeneration