Doctor of Philosophy, University of Alberta (2018)
RATIONALE: Activated fibroblasts are the major cell type that secrete excessive extracellular matrix in response to injury, contributing to pathological fibrosis and leading to organ failure. Effective anti-fibrotic therapeutic solutions, however, are not available due to the poorly defined characteristics and unavailability of tissue-specific fibroblasts. Recent advances in single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) fill such gaps of knowledge by enabling delineation of the developmental trajectories and identification of regulatory pathways of tissue-specific fibroblasts among different organs.OBJECTIVE: This study aims to define the transcriptome profiles of tissue-specific fibroblasts using recently reported mouse scRNA-seq atlas, and to develop a robust chemically defined protocol to derive cardiac fibroblasts (CFs) from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) for in vitro modeling of cardiac fibrosis and drug screening.METHODS AND RESULTS: By analyzing the single-cell transcriptome profiles of fibroblasts from 10 selected mouse tissues, we identified distinct tissue-specific signature genes, including transcription factors that define the identities of fibroblasts in the heart, lungs, trachea, and bladder. We also determined that CFs in large are of the epicardial lineage. We thus developed a robust chemically-defined protocol that generates CFs from human iPSCs. Functional studies confirmed that iPSC-derived CFs preserved a quiescent phenotype and highly resembled primary CFs at the transcriptional, cellular, and functional levels. We demonstrated that this cell-based platform is sensitive to both pro- and anti-fibrosis drugs. Finally, we showed that crosstalk between cardiomyocytes and CFs via the atrial/brain natriuretic peptide-natriuretic peptide receptor 1 pathway is implicated in suppressing fibrogenesis.CONCLUSIONS: This study uncovers unique gene signatures that define tissue-specific identities of fibroblasts. The bona fide quiescent CFs derived from human iPSCs can serve as a faithful in vitro platform to better understand the underlying mechanisms of cardiac fibrosis and to screen anti-fibrotic drugs.
View details for DOI 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.119.315491
View details for PubMedID 31288631
Aortic aneurysm is an asymptomatic disease with dire outcomes if undiagnosed. Aortic aneurysm rupture is a significant cause of death worldwide. To date, surgical repair or endovascular repair (EVAR) is the only effective treatment for aortic aneurysm, as no pharmacological treatment has been found effective. Aortic aneurysm, a focal dilation of the aorta, can be formed in the thoracic (TAA) or the abdominal (AAA) region; however, our understanding as to what determines the site of aneurysm formation remains quite limited. The extracellular matrix (ECM) is the noncellular component of the aortic wall, that in addition to providing structural support, regulates bioavailability of an array of growth factors and cytokines, thereby influencing cell function and behavior that ultimately determine physiological or pathological remodeling of the aortic wall. Here, we provide an overview of the ECM proteins that have been reported to be involved in aortic aneurysm formation in humans or animal models, and the experimental models for TAA and AAA and the link to ECM manipulations. We also provide a comparative analysis, where data available, between TAA and AAA, and how aberrant ECM proteolysis versus disrupted synthesis may determine the site of aneurysm formation.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s12276-019-0286-3
View details for PubMedID 31857579