Heart valve disease is a common manifestation of cardiovascular disease and is a significant cause of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality worldwide. The pulmonary valve (PV) is of primary concern because of its involvement in common congenital heart defects, and the PV is usually the site for prosthetic replacement following a Ross operation. Although effects of age on valve matrix components and mechanical properties for aortic and mitral valves have been studied, very little is known about the age-related alterations that occur in the PV. In this study, we isolated PV leaflets from porcine hearts in different age groups (~ 4–6 months, denoted as young versus ~ 2 years, denoted as adult) and studied the effects of age on PV leaflet thickness, extracellular matrix components, and mechanical properties. We also conducted proteomics and RNA sequencing to investigate the global changes of PV leaflets and passage zero PV interstitial cells in their protein and gene levels. We found that the size, thickness, elastic modulus, and ultimate stress in both the radial and circumferential directions and the collagen of PV leaflets increased from young to adult age, while the ultimate strain and amount of glycosaminoglycans decreased when age increased. Young and adult PV had both similar and distinct protein and gene expression patterns that are related to their inherent physiological properties. These findings are important for us to better understand the physiological microenvironments of PV leaflet and valve cells for correctively engineering age-specific heart valve tissues.
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