Cardiac myofibroblast differentiation, as one of the most important cellular responses to heart injury, plays a critical role in cardiac remodeling and failure. While biochemical cues for this have been extensively investigated, the role of mechanical cues, e.g., extracellular matrix stiffness and mechanical strain, has also been found to mediate cardiac myofibroblast differentiation. Cardiac fibroblasts in vivo are typically subjected to a specific spatiotemporally changed mechanical microenvironment. When exposed to abnormal mechanical conditions (e.g., increased extracellular matrix stiffness or strain), cardiac fibroblasts can undergo myofibroblast differentiation. To date, the impact of mechanical cues on cardiac myofibroblast differentiation has been studied both in vitro and in vivo. Most of the related in vitro research into this has been mainly undertaken in two-dimensional cell culture systems, although a few three-dimensional studies that exist revealed an important role of dimensionality. However, despite remarkable advances, the comprehensive mechanisms for mechanoregulation of cardiac myofibroblast differentiation remain elusive. In this review, we introduce important parameters for evaluating cardiac myofibroblast differentiation and then discuss the development of both in vitro (two and three dimensional) and in vivo studies on mechanoregulation of cardiac myofibroblast differentiation. An understanding of the development of cardiac myofibroblast differentiation in response to changing mechanical microenvironment will underlie potential targets for future therapy of cardiac fibrosis and failure.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.