M.D. Kaohsiung Medical College
Ph.D. University of Washington, Seattle (Bioengineering)
Background: The gut microbiota plays a vital role in maintaining tissue homeostasis and regulating disease pathophysiology; however, the underlying mechanisms remain to be elucidated. We previously showed that mice depleted of gut microbiota with antibiotics (ABX mice) were more prone to cardiac rupture after infarction, suggesting that the gut microbiota impacts cardiac structural remodeling following injury. Here, we aimed to determine whether the gut microbiota is required for adaptive cardiac remodeling in response to pressure overload stress.
Methods: Transverse aortic constriction (TAC) surgery was performed and cardiac function was evaluated by echocardiography and catheterization, followed by mechanical tests and extracellular matrix (ECM) studies. Germ-free mice with cecal microbiota transplantation were used for validation. 16S ribosomal DNA sequencing and PICRUSt2 analysis were applied to predict the key metabolic pathways. ABX mice were supplemented with the derived metabolic products and their efficacy was tested. To elucidate the underlying mechanism, we isolated mouse primary cardiac fibroblasts and treated them with the metabolites. Lastly, G-coupled protein receptor 41 (GPR41) and GPR43 double knockdown cardiac fibroblasts were generated and the anti-fibrogenic effect of metabolites was determined.
Results: Cardiac hypertrophy and dysfunction were more severe in ABX-TAC mice compared to the controls. Moreover, TAC-induced fibrosis was more profound in ABX hearts, which was accompanied by disrupted ECM structure making the heart tissues mechanically weaker and more brittle. Reconstruction of healthy gut microbiota in germ-free mice successfully restored cardiac function and prevented excessive fibrosis and ECM disarray under stress. Furthermore, functional prediction identified acetate and propionate as critical mediators in the gut microbiota-modulated cardiac mechanics. Supplementation of acetate and propionate improved heart function, attenuated fibrosis, and reversed ECM disarray after TAC. In addition, treating primary cardiac fibroblasts with acetate and propionate attenuated cell contraction, inhibited myofibroblast formation, and reduced collagen formation after TGF-β1 stimulus. Finally, knocking down GPR41 and GPR43 receptors in cardiac fibroblasts blunted the inhibitory effects of acetate and propionate.
Conclusions: The gut microbiota is a potential therapeutic target for cardiac ECM remodeling and heart structural integrity. By establishing a healthy gut microbiome or replenishing the derived metabolites, we could improve cardiac health under dysbiosis after pressure-overload stress.