Extracellular matrix plays a role in differentiation and phenotype development of its resident cells. Although cardiac extracellular matrix from the contractile tissues has been studied and utilized in tissue engineering, extracellular matrix properties of the pacemaking sinoatrial node are largely unknown. In this study, the biomechanical properties and biochemical composition and distribution of extracellular matrix in the sinoatrial node were investigated relative to the left ventricle. Extracellular matrix of the sinoatrial node was found to be overall stiffer than that of the left ventricle and highly heterogeneous with interstitial regions composed of predominantly fibrillar collagens and rich in elastin. The extracellular matrix protein distribution suggests that resident pacemaking cardiomyocytes are enclosed in fibrillar collagens that can withstand greater tensile strength while the surrounding elastin-rich regions may undergo deformation to reduce the mechanical strain in these cells. Moreover, basement membrane-associated adhesion proteins that are ligands for integrins were of low abundance in the sinoatrial node, which may decrease force transduction in the pacemaking cardiomyocytes. In contrast to extracellular matrix of the left ventricle, extracellular matrix of the sinoatrial node may reduce mechanical strain and force transduction in pacemaking cardiomyocytes. These findings provide the criteria for a suitable matrix scaffold for engineering biopacemakers.
Gluck, J. M., Herren, A. W., Yechikov, S., Kao, H. K. J., Khan, A., Phinney, B. S., … Lieu, D. K. (2017). Biochemical and biomechanical properties of the pacemaking sinoatrial node extracellular matrix are distinct from contractile left ventricular matrix. PLoS ONE, 12(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0185125