Most myocardial pathologic conditions are associated with cardiac fibrosis, the expansion of the cardiac interstitium through deposition of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins. Although replacement fibrosis plays a reparative role after myocardial infarction, excessive, unrestrained or dysregulated myocardial ECM deposition is associated with ventricular dysfunction, dysrhythmias and adverse prognosis in patients with heart failure. The members of the Transforming Growth Factor (TGF)-β superfamily are critical regulators of cardiac repair, remodeling and fibrosis. TGF-βs are released and activated in injured tissues, bind to their receptors and transduce signals in part through activation of cascades involving a family of intracellular effectors the receptor-activated Smads (R-Smads). This review manuscript summarizes our knowledge on the role of Smad signaling cascades in cardiac fibrosis. Smad3, the best-characterized member of the family plays a critical role in activation of a myofibroblast phenotype, stimulation of ECM synthesis, integrin expression and secretion of proteases and anti-proteases. In vivo, fibroblast Smad3 signaling is critically involved in scar organization and exerts matrix-preserving actions. Although Smad2 also regulates fibroblast function in vitro, its in vivo role in rodent models of cardiac fibrosis seems more limited. Very limited information is available on the potential involvement of the Smad1/5/8 cascade in cardiac fibrosis. Dissection of the cellular actions of Smads in cardiac fibrosis, and identification of patient subsets with overactive or dysregulated myocardial Smad-dependent fibrogenic responses are critical for design of successful therapeutic strategies in patients with fibrosis-associated heart failure.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology