Collagen network of the myocardium: function, structural remodeling and regulatory mechanisms

J Mol Cell Cardiol. 1994 Mar;26(3):279-92. doi: 10.1006/jmcc.1994.1036.


A collagen network, composed largely of type I and III fibrillar collagens, is found in the extracellular space of the myocardium. This network has multiple functions which includes a preservation of tissue architecture and chamber geometry. Given its tensile strength, collagen is a major determinant of tissue stiffness. Its disproportionate accumulation, in the form of either a reactive or a reparative fibrosis, further increases stiffness. A degradation of collagen tethers, on the other hand, is an anatomic requisite for a distortion in tissue architecture and a reduction in stiffness that can lead to chamber dilatation, wall thinning, and even rupture of the myocardium. Collagen turnover in the myocardium is dynamic. When synthesis exceeds degradation, an adverse accumulation of collagen appears to distort tissue structure. This is true for either the hypertrophied and/or nonhypertrophied ventricle. Factors that contribute to the appearance of myocardial fibrosis are largely different from those that promote cardiac myocyte growth. Included amongst these fibrogenic factors are effector hormones of the reinin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS). Studies conducted both in intact animals (relative to dietary sodium intake) and in cultured adult cardiac fibroblasts have pointed toward the association between collagen accumulation and chronic elevations in circulating angiotensin II and aldosterone. A tissue hormonal system involving angiotensin II, endothelins and bradykinin, may likewise regulate fibrogenesis. In this regard, angiotensin converting enzyme is found in connective tissue of the normal heart, including the matrix of heart valves and the adventitia of the intramural coronary arteries, and fibrous tissue that forms following infarction or with chronic RAAS activation. The importance of ACE in the regulation of local angiotensin II and bradykinin levels and their contribution to collagen turnover is a fruitful area of research with important clinical implications. The myocardium also contains a proteolytic system, including collagenase. The characteristics and regulation of matrix metalloproteinases and their tissue inhibitors in various cardiovascular disease states requires further investigation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin II / metabolism
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Collagen / physiology*
  • Collagen / ultrastructure
  • Collagenases / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiology
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / ultrastructure*
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Fibrosis
  • Muscle Proteins / physiology
  • Myocardium / metabolism*
  • Myocardium / pathology
  • Myocardium / ultrastructure
  • Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A / physiology
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Angiotensin / physiology
  • Receptors, Bradykinin / physiology
  • Receptors, Mineralocorticoid / physiology
  • Renin-Angiotensin System / physiology


  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Receptors, Angiotensin
  • Receptors, Bradykinin
  • Receptors, Mineralocorticoid
  • Angiotensin II
  • Collagen
  • Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A
  • Collagenases