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BACKGROUND - Chronic pressure overload causes myocardial hypertrophy, increased fibrillar collagen content, and abnormal diastolic function. We hypothesized that one determinant of these pressure overload-induced changes is the extracellular processing of newly synthesized procollagen into mature collagen fibrils. We further hypothesized that secreted protein acidic and rich in cysteine (SPARC) plays a key role in post-synthetic procollagen processing in normal and pressure-overloaded myocardium.
METHODS AND RESULTS - To determine whether pressure overload-induced changes in collagen content and diastolic function are affected by the absence of SPARC, age-matched wild-type (WT) and SPARC-null mice underwent either transverse aortic constriction (TAC) for 4 weeks or served as nonoperated controls. Left ventricular (LV) collagen content was measured histologically by collagen volume fraction, collagen composition was measured by hydroxyproline assay as soluble collagen (1 mol/L NaCl extractable) versus insoluble collagen (mature cross-linked collagen), and collagen morphological structure was examined by scanning electron microscopy. SPARC expression was measured by immunoblot. LV, myocardial, and cardiomyocyte structure and function were assessed by echocardiographic, papillary muscle, and isolated cardiomyocyte studies. In WT mice, TAC increased LV mass, SPARC expression, myocardial diastolic stiffness, fibrillar collagen content, and soluble and insoluble collagen. In SPARC-null mice, TAC increased LV mass to an extent similar to WT mice. In addition, in SPARC-null mice, TAC increased fibrillar collagen content, albeit significantly less than that seen in WT TAC mice. Furthermore, the proportion of LV collagen that was insoluble was less in the SPARC-null TAC mice (86+/-2%) than in WT TAC mice (99+/-2%, P<0.05), and the proportion of collagen that was soluble was greater in the SPARC-null TAC mice (14+/-2%) than in WT TAC mice (1+/-2%, P<0.05) As a result, myocardial diastolic stiffness was lower in SPARC-null TAC mice (0.075+/-0.005) than in WT TAC mice (0.045+/-0.005, P<0.05).
CONCLUSIONS - The absence of SPARC reduced pressure overload-induced alterations in extracellular matrix fibrillar collagen and diastolic function. These data support the hypothesis that SPARC plays a key role in post-synthetic procollagen processing and the development of mature cross-linked collagen fibrils in normal and pressure-overloaded myocardium.