Valve interstitial cell contractile strength and metabolic state are dependent on its shape†
The role of valvular interstitial cell (VIC) architecture in regulating cardiac valve function and pathology is not well understood. VICs are known to be more elongated in a hypertensive environment compared to those in a normotensive environment. We have previously reported that valve tissues cultured under hypertensive conditions are prone to acute pathological alterations in cell phenotype and contractility. We therefore aimed to rigorously study the relationship between VIC shape, contractile output and other functional indicators of VIC pathology. We developed an in vitro model to engineer VICs to take on the same shapes as those seen in normal and hypertensive conditions. VICs with longer cellular and nuclear shapes, as seen in hypertensive conditions, had greater contractile response to endothelin-1 that correlated with increased anisotropy of the actin architecture. These elongated VICs also demonstrated altered cell metabolism through a decreased optical redox ratio, which coincided with increased cellular proliferation. In the presence of actin polymerization inhibitor, however, these functional responses were significantly reduced, suggesting the important role of cytoskeletal actin organization in regulating cellular responses to abnormal shape. Overall, these results demonstrate the relationship between cell shape, cytoskeletal and nuclear organization, with functional output including contractility, metabolism, and proliferation.