Cardiac fibrosis is a pathophysiologic hallmark of the aging heart, but little is known about how fibroblast proliferation and transcriptional programs change throughout the life span of the organism. Using EdU pulse labeling, we demonstrated that more than 50% of cardiac fibroblasts were actively proliferating in the first day of postnatal life. However, by 4 weeks, only 10% of cardiac fibroblasts were proliferating. By early adulthood, the fraction of proliferating cardiac fibroblasts further decreased to approximately 2%, where it remained throughout the rest of the organism’s life. We observed that maximal changes in cardiac fibroblast transcriptional programs and, in particular, collagen and ECM gene expression both in the heart and cardiac fibroblast were maximal in the newly born and juvenile animal and decreased with organismal aging. Examination of DNA methylation changes both in the heart and in cardiac fibroblasts did not demonstrate significant changes in differentially methylated regions between young and old mice. Our observations demonstrate that cardiac fibroblasts attain a stable proliferation rate and transcriptional program early in the life span of the organism and suggest that phenotypic changes in the aging heart are not directly attributable to changes in proliferation rate or altered collagen expression in cardiac fibroblasts.
Rimao Wu, Feiyang Ma, Anela Tosevska, Colin Farrell, Matteo Pellegrini, Arjun Deb