The heart valve interstitial cell (VIC) population is dynamic and thought to mediate lay down and maintenance of the tri-laminar extracellular matrix (ECM) structure within the developing and mature valve throughout life. Disturbances in the contribution and distribution of valve ECM components are detrimental to biomechanical function and associated with disease. This pathological process is associated with activation of resident VICs that in the absence of disease reside as quiescent cells. While these paradigms have been long standing, characterization of this abundant and ever-changing valve cell population is incomplete. Here we examine the expression pattern of Smooth muscle alpha-actin, Periostin, Twist1 and Vimentin in cultured VICs, heart valves from healthy embryonic, postnatal and adult mice, as well as mature valves from human patients and established mouse models of disease. We show that the VIC population is highly heterogeneous and phenotypes are dependent on age, species, location, and disease state. Furthermore, we identify phenotypic diversity across common models of mitral valve disease. These studies significantly contribute to characterizing the VIC population in health and disease and provide insights into the cellular dynamics that maintain valve structure in healthy adults and mediate pathologic remodeling in disease states.
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