Intercellular model predicts mechanisms of inflammation-fibrosis coupling after myocardial infarction

Mukti Chowkwale, Merry L. Lindsey, Jeffrey J. Saucerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Abstract: After myocardial infarction (MI), cardiac cells work together to regulate wound healing of the infarct. The pathological response to MI yields cardiac remodelling comprising inflammatory and fibrosis phases, and the interplay of cellular dynamics that underlies these phases has not been elucidated. This study developed a computational model to identify cytokine and cellular dynamics post-MI to predict mechanisms driving post-MI inflammation, resolution of inflammation, and scar formation. Additionally, this study evaluated the interdependence between inflammation and fibrosis. Our model bypassed limitations of in vivo approaches in achieving cellular specificity and performing specific perturbations such as global knockouts of chemical factors. The model predicted that inflammation is a graded response to initial infarct size that is amplified by a positive feedback loop between neutrophils and interleukin 1β (IL-1β). Resolution of inflammation was driven by degradation of IL-1β, matrix metalloproteinase 9, and transforming growth factor β (TGF-β), as well as apoptosis of neutrophils. Inflammation regulated TGFβ secretion directly through immune cell recruitment and indirectly through upregulation of macrophage phagocytosis. Lastly, we found that mature collagen deposition was an ultrasensitive switch in response to inflammation, which was amplified primarily by cardiac fibroblast proliferation. These findings describe the relationship between inflammation and fibrosis and highlight how the two responses work together post-MI. This model revealed that post-MI inflammation and fibrosis are dynamically coupled, which provides rationale for designing novel anti-inflammatory, pro-resolving or anti-fibrotic therapies that may improve the response to MI. (Figure presented.). Key points: Inflammation and matrix remodelling are two processes involved in wound healing after a heart attack. Cardiac cells work together to facilitate these processes; this is done by secreting cytokines that then regulate the cells themselves or other cells surrounding them. This study developed a computational model of the dynamics of cardiac cells and cytokines to predict mechanisms through which inflammation and matrix remodelling is regulated. We show the roles of various cytokines and signalling motifs in driving inflammation, resolution of inflammation and fibrosis. The novel concept of inflammation–fibrosis coupling, based on the model prediction that inflammation and fibrosis are dynamically coupled, provides rationale for future studies and for designing therapeutics to improve the response after a heart attack.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2635-2654
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • inflammation–fibrosis coupling
  • intercellular dynamics
  • myocardial infarction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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