Globally, cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in the aging population. While the clinical pathology of the aging heart is thoroughly characterized, underlying molecular mechanisms are still insufficiently clarified. The aim of the present study was to establish an in vitro model system of cardiomyocyte premature senescence, culturing heart muscle cells derived from neonatal C57Bl/6J mice for 21 days. Premature senescence of neonatal cardiac myocytes was induced by prolonged culture time in an oxygen-rich postnatal environment. Age-related changes in cellular function were determined by senescence-associated β-galactosidase activity, increasing presence of cell cycle regulators, such as p16, p53, and p21, accumulation of protein aggregates, and restricted proteolysis in terms of decreasing (macro-)autophagy. Furthermore, the culture system was functionally characterized for alterations in cell morphology and contractility. An increase in cellular size associated with induced expression of atrial natriuretic peptides demonstrated a stress-induced hypertrophic phenotype in neonatal cardiomyocytes. Using the recently developed analytical software tool Myocyter, we were able to show a spatiotemporal constraint in spontaneous contraction behavior during cultivation. Within the present study, the 21-day culture of neonatal cardiomyocytes was defined as a functional model system of premature cardiac senescence to study age-related changes in cardiomyocyte contractility and autophagy.
Copyright © 2020 Steffen Häseli et al.