Author + information
- Received March 18, 2019
- Revision received October 4, 2019
- Accepted October 7, 2019
- Published online January 27, 2020.
- Xinji Guo, PhDa,
- Mikhail A. Kolpakov, MD, PhDa,
- Bahman Hooshdaran, PhDa,
- William Schappell, BSa,
- Tao Wang, MD, PhDa,
- Satoru Eguchi, MD, PhDa,
- Katherine J. Elliott, PhDa,
- Douglas G. Tilley, PhDb,
- A. Koneti Rao, MDc,
- Patricia Andrade-Gordon, PhDd,
- Matthew Bunce, PhDd,
- Chintala Madhu, PhDd,
- Steven R. Houser, PhDa and
- Abdelkarim Sabri, PhDa,∗ ()
- aCardiovascular Research Center, Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- bCenter of Translational Medicine, Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- cSol Sherry Thrombosis Center, Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- dJanssen Pharmaceutical, Spring House, Pennsylvania
- ↵∗Address for correspondence:
Dr. Abdelkarim Sabri, Cardiovascular Research Center, Temple University, MERB 1045, 3500 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19140.
• Factor X expression was increased in the heart following pressure overload and in isolated cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts.
• Rivaroxaban treatment at doses that do not affect thrombin generation, blood coagulation or cardiac hemostasis attenuated cardiac inflammation, hypertrophy, and fibrosis caused by pressure overload and improved cardiac diastolic function.
• Activated coagulation factor X induced PAR-1/-2–mediated elongated cardiomyocyte hypertrophy and PAR1-mediated cardiac fibroblast proliferation, migration and differentiation.
• Activated coagulation factor X derived from a cardiac source may represent an important physiologic and pathophysiologic activator of PAR-1/PAR-2.
• Non-anticoagulation dosage of rivaroxaban could provide an effective therapy to attenuate early phases of heart failure development.
Activated factor X is a key component of the coagulation cascade, but whether it directly regulates pathological cardiac remodeling is unclear. In mice subjected to pressure overload stress, cardiac factor X mRNA expression and activity increased concurrently with cardiac hypertrophy, fibrosis, inflammation and diastolic dysfunction, and responses blocked with a low coagulation-independent dose of rivaroxaban. In vitro, neurohormone stressors increased activated factor X expression in both cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts, resulting in activated factor X-mediated activation of protease-activated receptors and pro-hypertrophic and -fibrotic responses, respectively. Thus, inhibition of cardiac-expressed activated factor X could provide an effective therapy for the prevention of adverse cardiac remodeling in hypertensive patients.
- activated coagulation factor X
- cardiac hypertrophy
- protease-activated receptors
Chronic pathologic stress to the heart results in structural and functional remodeling, accompanied by various molecular and cellular changes, including myocyte hypertrophy, inflammatory and fibrogenic responses, and myocyte death which often culminate in heart failure (HF) and sudden death (1,2). Clinical studies have shown that patients suffering from HF are at risk of sustaining thromboembolic events partly due to increased activity of pro-coagulant factors and increased platelet activation (3,4). Although the primary function of the coagulation cascade is to promote hemostasis and limit blood loss in response to tissue injury, it is now recognized that the physiologic functions of the coagulation factors extend beyond blood coagulation and that these factors play pivotal roles in influencing processes such as angiogenesis, inflammation, and repair in response to tissue injury (5). Therefore, targeting these factors may provide a mean by which to improve the outcome of HF therapies.
Activated coagulation factor X (FXa) is a serine protease that plays a central role in the coagulation cascade (6), which, during hemostasis, forms a prothrombinase complex with factor Va on a phospholipid membrane surface, leading to thrombin generation (6). Treatment strategies directly targeting FXa have been established for atrial fibrillation (7), deep vein thrombosis (8), and pulmonary embolism (9). Recently, lower doses of rivaroxaban (e.g., 2.5 mg twice daily) in combination with antiplatelet agents have been found to reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular causes, myocardial infarction, and stroke in patients with acute coronary syndromes or stable coronary artery disease (10,11). Moreover, analysis of a subgroup of patients with a history of HF who were enrolled in the COMPASS (Cardiovascular Outcomes for People Using Anticoagulation Strategies) trial suggested that they may benefit from treatment with rivaroxaban in combination with aspirin (12). Recent evidence shows that FXa may exert its effects on other systems beyond blood coagulation (5). Such non-hematologic functions of FXa actions could be mediated through protease-activated receptor (PAR)1 and/or PAR-2 cleavage, which depend on the receptor-specific cell expression pattern, ligand concentration, solubility, or association with other coagulation factors (5). The proteolytic cleavage of PAR-1 and PAR-2 by FXa results in the activation of a canonical G-protein pathway and, consequently, of downstream signaling pathways that trigger multiple transcription-regulated, cell-specific events. In the heart, PAR-1 and PAR-2 are each expressed in several cardiac cells, including myocytes and fibroblasts, with expression increased in response to cardiac injury or stress (13). Genetic and pharmacologic investigations showed the involvement of PAR-1 and PAR-2 on adverse cardiac remodeling and function in response to various stressors (13-16). Whether the beneficial effects of FXa inhibition by rivaroxaban are mediated through its actions on blood coagulation, cardiac cells, or both are not well understood.
Factor X (FX) is synthesized in the liver and is locally activated in response to tissue injury as a result of vascular leak and extravascular tissue-factor expression. However, it is unknown whether FXa can be derived from a local cardiac source rather than from the circulation, which may represent an additional extravascular mechanism for the generation of FXa. In the present study, we investigated whether local expression of FX is increased in heart after transverse aortic constriction (TAC) to induce pressure overload (PO) and the mechanisms by which FXa affects cardiac myocyte and fibroblast growth. We also studied the pharmacokinetic of FXa inhibition by rivaroxaban to determine whether a non-anticoagulation dosage of rivaroxaban is effective in reducing adverse cardiac remodeling and function in mice subjected to TAC independently of its effect of blood coagulation. We provide new insights into our understanding of the cellular origin of excessive coagulation activity in heart following PO-induced stress and we propose that FXa, derived from a local cardiac source rather than from the circulation, may represent an important physiologic and pathophysiologic activator of PAR-1/PAR-2 in extravascular compartments in the absence of hematoma and microvascular leak.
All mice were maintained and studied using protocols approved by the Animal Care and Use Committee of Temple University. Rivaroxaban (orb61422, Biobyt, San Francisco, California) was dissolved in a vehicle solution containing 10% ethanol, 40% Solutol HS 15 (Sigma-Aldrich, St. Louis, Missouri), and 50% water for injection. Different doses of rivaroxaban (1 and 10 mg/kg) were intraperitoneally administrated to 12-week-old C57BL6 male mice. The plasma concentration of rivaroxaban, activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT), prothrombin time (PT), and thrombin generation were measured before, and 2 h and 4 h after rivaroxaban administration to evaluate the effects on the systemic coagulation (n = 3 to 4 per dose and timepoint) (see Supplemental Methods for details).
Because 1 mg/kg rivaroxaban–treated mice had no systemic anticoagulation, we chose this dose in further experiments to test its effectiveness on mice subjected to TAC. Herein, 12-week-old C57BL6 male mice (mean body weight, ∼25 g) were subjected to sham or TAC surgery for 3 weeks and divided into 4 major groups consisting of: 1) sham mice receiving rivaroxaban dissolved in the vehicle solution (1 mg/kg body weight; n = 6); 2) sham mice receiving vehicle solution (n = 6); 3) TAC mice receiving 1 mg/kg rivaroxaban (n = 8); and 4) TAC mice receiving vehicle solution (n = 8). Rivaroxaban or its vehicle was administered daily via intraperitoneal injection. This dose and higher doses of rivaroxaban have been previously used in mouse studies without increasing bleeding or hemorrhage (17,18). However, this dose (equivalent to 0.08 mg/kg [4.8 mg/d] in human accommodating allometric scaling) and higher doses (10 or 20 mg/d) are typically used as anticoagulant in patients (7-10).
All results are reported as mean ± SEM using GraphPad Prism (San Diego, California). Comparison of 2 groups was accomplished using an unpaired Student’s t-test. Data from experiments with more than 2 groups were compared by one-way analysis of variance followed by Tukey's post hoc test for all pairwise group comparisons using a family-wise error rate. All in vitro experiments were performed at least 3 times from 3 different cultures and the data values were scaled to controls. A value of p < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.
An expanded Methods section is provided in the Supplemental Appendix.
TAC increases local expression of FX/FXa in the heart
Coagulation zymogens are generally synthesized in the liver (19) and are locally activated in response to tissue injury as a result of vascular leak. However, some studies have proposed an additional mechanism for the generation of FXa via local extravascular expression of FX (20,21). We investigated whether FX is locally produced in the murine heart after TAC by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Figure 1A shows that the left ventricle (LV) expresses low levels of FX mRNA in sham-operated mice. However, induction of TAC for 3 weeks significantly increased FX expression compared to shams (Figure 1A). Accumulation of FX protein and increased FXa activity further corroborated these changes in mRNA and show increased FX/FXa protein and activity levels at 3 weeks post-TAC compared to sham hearts (Figures 1B and 1C). Immunohistochemistry of LV myocardium reveals that after 3 weeks of TAC, FX/FXa accumulation was detected in cardiac interstitial space, surrounding cardiomyocytes and in capillary endothelial cells (Figure 1D).
To examine whether cardiac cells participate in the enhanced accumulation of FX in the heart post-TAC, we investigated the effect of various mediators implicated in cardiac hypertrophy or fibrosis on FX mRNA expression in vitro. Treatment of neonatal rat cardiomyocytes with thrombin, phenylephrine, angiotensin II or epidermal growth factor (EGF) induced a significant increase in FX mRNA expression (Figure 1E), whereas this response was 2 to 4 times stronger in primary isolated cardiac fibroblasts (Figures 1F). FX mRNA expression was also induced by FXa with levels decreasing at higher concentrations of FXa in both cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts (Supplemental Figures S1A and S1D).
We next investigated the expression of intrinsic and extrinsic coagulation factors that activate FX given FX mRNA is increased in cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts. Supplemental Figures S1B, S1C, S1E, and S1F show increased FIII, but not FVIII, mRNA expression in response to FXa and thrombin in cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts. Increased FIII mRNA expression was also observed in cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts treated with phenylephrine or transforming growth factor (TGF)-β, which were taken as positive controls for cardiomyocyte hypertrophy and fibroblast differentiation, respectively. These data imply that coagulation FX is produced in cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts, which in turn can mediate cardiac hypertrophy and fibrosis.
A non-anticoagulation dosage of rivaroxaban reduces cardiac FXa activity without inducing intracardiac hemorrhage
To determine the specific role of cardiac tissue FX on cardiac remodeling and function, we evaluated the dose-proportional pharmacodynamic effect of rivaroxaban on its anticoagulant activity. Mice were treated with a single dose of rivaroxaban at 1 and 10 mg/kg (intraperitoneally) and platelet-poor plasma was prepared at 0, 2, and 4 h after injection and evaluated for coagulation assays (Figure 2). Rivaroxaban was detected in the plasma of mice treated with 1 mg/kg (8 ± 4 ng/ml) and 10 mg/kg (140 ± 12 ng/ml) at 2 h (Figure 2A). However, FXa activity and thrombin generation assay parameters such as endogenous thrombin potential, thrombin peak height, lag time, or thrombin generation time to peak at both 2 and 4 h were comparable between the 1 mg/kg-treated and untreated mice (Figures 2A to 2F). In contrast, mice treated with 10 mg/kg showed significant changes in all these parameters from the thrombin generation assay. Analysis of blood coagulation parameters, aPTT and PT, further corroborated the lack of anticoagulant effects of the 1 mg/kg dose compared to the 10 mg/kg, which showed increased aPTT (+78%) and PT (+64%) levels compared to untreated mice (Figures 2G and 2H).
We next evaluated the role of FXa in the sequelae of PO stress beyond its effect on blood coagulation. C57BL6 mice were administered vehicle or non-anticoagulation dosage of rivaroxaban (1 mg/kg/d, intraperitoneally) for 3 weeks and effects on cardiac remodeling and function were investigated. Treatment with rivaroxaban for 3 weeks did not affect circulating FX activity, aPTT, or PT either in sham or TAC mice (Supplemental Figures S2A to S2C), and no spontaneous bleeding was observed in these mice. In contrast, rivaroxaban treatment markedly reduced TAC-induced FXa and thrombin activity in the LV compared to vehicle-treated TAC mice (Figures 3A and 3B). Rivaroxaban also markedly reduced fibrin(ogen) deposit in the fibrotic area induced after TAC (Supplemental Figure S3). No intravascular thrombi stained with fibrin(ogen) were detected in vehicle- or rivaroxaban-treated TAC hearts. To determine whether reduction in cardiac FXa and thrombin activity was associated with impaired cardiac hemostasis and vascular leak, we performed Prussian blue staining of hearts (Figure 3C). Hemosiderin deposition, which most likely derives from erythrocytes that have hemorrhaged into the myocardium, was rarely detected in vehicle-treated TAC after 3 weeks (detected in ∼25% mice) and was associated with areas of inflammatory cells accumulation and fibrosis. In contrast, hemosiderin deposition was absent in rivaroxaban-treated sham and TAC hearts, indicating the absence of cardiac hemorrhages.
A non-anticoagulation dosage of rivaroxaban reduces post-TAC inflammation
Comparative analyses of complete blood counts in whole blood collected from rivaroxaban-treated sham and TAC mice established that these animals retained blood cell profiles, which were not different from vehicle-treated mice, with normal hemoglobin, platelet, and white blood cell counts (Supplemental Figures S4A to S4C). However, analysis of cardiac inflammation shows an increase in the infiltration of CD45+ leukocytes and CD3+ T cells in the post-TAC hearts compared to shams (Figures 3C to 3E). These effects were significantly reduced by rivaroxaban treatment. Neutrophil and macrophage accumulation within the LV was minimal 3 weeks post-TAC, and was not altered by rivaroxaban (data not shown). Protection from inflammation in rivaroxaban-treated hearts was further confirmed by a reduction in the pro-inflammatory signaling pathways, signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) and nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB p65) (Figure 3F), and attenuation of pro-inflammatory cytokine expression, including interleukin- (IL)-1β, IL-6 and interferon-γ (Figure 3G). Collectively, these data show that a non-anticoagulation dosage of rivaroxaban reduces cardiac inflammatory responses following TAC.
A non-anticoagulation dosage of rivaroxaban reduces cardiac hypertrophy and improves cardiac diastolic function post-TAC
We next explored the impact of FXa inhibition on cardiac function post-TAC. Rivaroxaban treatment at 1 mg/kg/d had no effect on peak systolic pressure in sham or TAC mice (Figure 4A). In contrast, TAC induced the elevation of end-diastolic pressure in vehicle-treated mice, which was significantly reduced in rivaroxaban-treated mice (Figure 4B). Rivaroxaban treatment also significantly decreased minimum rate of pressure change in the ventricle (dp/dt), indicative of an improvement in cardiac diastolic function (Supplemental Figure S5A). Systolic function as assessed by maximum dp/dt was slightly, but not significantly affected in rivaroxaban-treated compared to vehicle-treated TAC mice (Supplemental Figure S5B). This lack of change in cardiac systolic function was further corroborated by echocardiography measurements where rivaroxaban treatment did not significantly affect LV fractional shortening and ejection fraction changes induced after TAC compared to vehicle-treated TAC mice (Figures 4C, Supplemental Table S1). However, rivaroxaban-treated mice had smaller increases in LV posterior wall thickness (LVPWT) during systole (Figure 4D), end-systolic (LV Vols) and end-diastolic volume (LV Vold), and systolic (LVIDs) and diastolic LV internal diameter (LVIDd) (Supplemental Table S1).
Post-TAC cardiac hypertrophy, as determined by heart weight to tibia length ratio, was significantly reduced in rivaroxaban- versus vehicle-treated mice (Figures 4E). Consistent with these findings, cardiomyocyte cross-sectional areas increased significantly after TAC (+80% vs. vehicle-treated sham), which was reduced in rivaroxaban-treated mice (-30% vs. vehicle-treated TAC) (Figures 4F and 4G). In addition, upregulation of the hypertrophic gene markers atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) and brain natriuretic peptide, which are generally modulated in hypertrophied rodent hearts (1,22), and down-regulation of sarcoendoplasmic reticulum calcium ATPase (SERCA)2, were significantly reduced in rivaroxaban-treated mice (Figure 4H). There was no effect of rivaroxaban treatment on baseline expression of these fetal cardiac genes, suggesting that FXa inhibition is not required for their normal expression in the absence of stress. Collectively, these data show that rivaroxaban treatment reduces pathologic cardiac remodeling and diastolic dysfunction induced by PO.
FXa-induced signaling and cardiomyocyte hypertrophy requires PAR-1 and PAR-2
We investigated next whether the ability of rivaroxaban to suppress pathologic cardiac remodeling is cell autonomous. We examined cardiomyocyte hypertrophy and the expression of molecular markers of pathologic hypertrophy in neonatal rat ventricular cardiomyocytes. Cardiomyocytes treated with FXa for 48 h displayed an eccentric hypertrophic phenotype, which was accompanied by elevated organization of sarcomeres, as revealed by sarcomeric α-actinin, and increased expression of ANP mRNA (Figures 5A to 5C, Supplemental Figure S6). Inhibition of FXa by rivaroxaban decreased FXa-induced cardiomyocyte hypertrophy as evidenced by reduction in cardiomyocyte cell surface area, myofibril organization, and levels of ANP mRNA. Mechanistically, FXa treatment promoted a rapid and transient increase in the phosphorylation of Erk1/2 and Erk5, an effector previously identified as a modulator of eccentric cardiomyocyte hypertrophy (22-24), effects that were inhibited by rivaroxaban (Supplemental Figure S7). Collectively, these data implicate FXa as a positive regulator of cardiac hypertrophic signaling.
We next determined whether FXa signaling is mediated through stimulation of PAR-1 and/or PAR-2, 2 receptors that have been shown to mediate FXa actions in other cell types (25). Figure 5D shows that FXa-mediated Erk1/2 and Erk5 phosphorylation in cardiomyocytes is sensitive to inhibition of either PAR-1 or PAR-2 with SCH79797 and GB83, respectively. SCH79797 and GB83 treatment also inhibited Erk1/2 and Erk5 phosphorylation induced in response to PAR-1- and PAR-2-agonist peptide, respectively. In addition, inhibition of either PAR-1 or PAR-2 attenuated the expression of markers of cardiomyocyte hypertrophy, including myocyte surface area, myofibril organization, and ANP expression induced in response to FXa treatment (Figures 5A to 5C, Supplemental Figure S6). The role of PAR-1 and PAR-2 in FXa-mediated signaling and cardiomyocyte hypertrophy was further corroborated using adenoviruses expressing PAR-1 or PAR-2 short hairpin RNA. Herein, knockdown of PAR-1 or PAR-2 significantly reduced FXa-mediated cardiomyocyte hypertrophy, myofibril organization, and phosphorylation of Erk1/2 and Erk5 (Supplemental Figures S8A to S8E). Collectively, these results indicate that the stimulatory actions of FXa in cardiomyocytes require both PAR-1- and PAR-2-mediated signaling.
Because PAR-1- and PAR-2-dependent downstream activation requires transactivation of the EGF receptor (EGFR) (26,27), experiments next investigated whether FXa-mediated signaling in cardiomyocytes requires a matrix metalloprotease (MMP)–dependent transactivation of EGFR. In-gel zymography shows that FXa induced an increase in MMP2 activity, which was inhibited by rivaroxaban treatment (Supplemental Figure S9A). Rivaroxaban also attenuated MMP2 activity induced in response to thrombin, another serine protease that cleaves mainly PAR-1. Analysis of EGFR signaling shows that FXa- and thrombin-mediated increase in EGFR Y1068, Erk5, and Erk1/2 phosphorylation were markedly attenuated by BB94, a non-selective MMP inhibitor, or AG1478, an inhibitor of EGFR kinase activity (Figure 5E, Supplemental Figures S9B and S9C). Myocytes stimulated with EGF and taken as controls show selective inhibition of EGFR, Erk1/2, and Erk5 phosphorylation with AG1478. These data collectively show that FXa-mediated signaling in cardiomyocytes involves MMP-dependent activation of EGFR.
A non-anticoagulation dosage of rivaroxaban prevents cardiac fibrosis post-TAC
Excessive cardiac fibrosis from chronic PO affects myocardial compliance resulting in increased myocardial stiffness, which is a major determinant of diastolic dysfunction (28). We next investigated the idea that rivaroxaban improves diastolic function in mice with PO by reducing cardiac fibrosis and matrix remodeling. In vehicle-treated mice, TAC induced extensive fibrosis of the ventricular wall as detected by Masson’s trichrome staining (Figure 6A). Remarkably, there was a significant reduction in interstitial, but not in perivascular, fibrosis in rivaroxaban-treated TAC mice (Figures 6B and 6C). Additionally, levels of collagen type III, TGF-β, and connective tissue growth factor, which are upregulated during cardiac fibrosis (29), were reduced in TAC mice treated with rivaroxaban (Figure 6D). Furthermore, expression levels of tissue inhibitor of metalloprotease-1 and -3, membrane-type-1 MMP and activity of MMP-2/9, which are known to play an important role in extracellular matrix remodeling (30), were significantly attenuated in hearts from rivaroxaban-treated TAC mice compared to vehicle-treated mice (Figures 6E and 6F). These findings show that rivaroxaban reduces cardiac fibrosis and the molecular events contributing to adverse LV remodeling, and diastolic dysfunction in mice with PO.
FXa inhibition reduces fibroblast proliferation, migration, and differentiation via PAR-1
The antifibrotic phenotypes observed in mice treated with rivaroxaban led us to examine the function of FXa signaling in cardiac fibroblasts. Treatment of neonatal rat cardiac fibroblasts with FXa increased α-smooth muscle actin expression, indicating fibroblast differentiation to myofibroblasts (Figure 7A, Supplemental Figure S10). FXa treatment also increased TGF-β1 and collagen type I expression, indicative of enhanced secretory phenotype. Concurrent treatment with rivaroxaban blocked these FXa-induced responses in cardiac fibroblasts. Rivaroxaban also blocked FXa-induced NF-κB p65 and STAT3 phosphorylation, 2 important mediators associated with myofibroblast differentiation, and plays an important role in cardiac inflammation and fibrosis following injury (31) (Supplemental Figure S11A). The proinflammatory effect of FXa was further corroborated by changes in the expression of IL-1β, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor α which were upregulated in FXa-treated fibroblasts compared with control cells, whereas rivaroxaban treatment blocked these responses (Supplemental Figure S11B). We also determined whether fibroblast migration and proliferation are sensitive to rivaroxaban. Figure 7B shows representative phase-contrast micrographs of scratch assays of confluent fibroblast cell monolayers. FXa and thrombin both increased fibroblast migration and proliferation compared with vehicle (Figures 7C and 7D), effects that were significantly diminished after treatment with rivaroxaban compared with vehicle-treated cultures. Collectively, these data show that FXa can directly induce fibroblast migration, proliferation, and differentiation into myofibroblasts.
We next investigated the role of PAR-1 and PAR-2 in the stimulatory actions of FXa in cardiac fibroblasts. Treatment with FXa or thrombin activates Erk1/2 in vehicle-treated fibroblasts, but not in cells treated with PAR-1 antagonist (SCH79797) (Figure 7E). Treatment with PAR-2 antagonist showed no effect on FXa-induced Erk1/2 phosphorylation, which is in sharp contrast to FXa-mediated effects in cardiomyocytes. Additional experiments show that SCH79797 treatment attenuated fibroblast migration and proliferation induced by FXa treatment (Figures 7F and 7G). These results indicate that the stimulatory actions of FXa in primary isolated cardiac fibroblasts require PAR-1, but not PAR-2, stimulation.
The major finding of the present study is that FXa is an important regulator of pathologic cardiac hypertrophy and fibrosis after PO beyond its effect on blood coagulation. Cardiac FX expression and activity were increased after TAC and FXa inhibition with rivaroxaban significantly reduced LV hypertrophy, fibrosis, and impairment of LV diastolic function post-TAC without affecting blood coagulation and cardiac hemostasis. Using in vitro assays, we found that FXa has direct actions on cardiomyocyte signaling through activation of both PAR-1 and PAR-2, which culminate in elongated myocyte hypertrophy, whereas FXa actions in cardiac fibroblasts were mediated through PAR-1 only to enhance proliferation/migration, differentiation, and expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines. These responses were blocked by rivaroxaban, consistent with our in vivo findings that rivaroxaban attenuates pathologic remodeling and improves cardiac function post-TAC.
Some studies challenged the concept that coagulation zymogens FXa are synthesized in the liver, travel through the blood and entering tissues where they are locally activated in response to injury (20,21). Our new findings propose an additional mechanism for cardiac FXa activity, via local expression of FX in the heart. FX mRNA expression was increased in the stressed myocardium with prominent sites of FX/FXa immunoreactivity detected in interstitial space of cardiac fibrosis and surrounding cardiomyocytes after TAC. We further showed that neurohormonal stressors were capable of substantially upregulating FX mRNA levels in isolated cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts in vitro, with cardiac fibroblasts expressing higher levels of FX than isolated cardiac myocytes. Because of their abundance in the heart, we suspect that cardiac fibroblasts may be a major contributor of the total FX expression in the heart precisely when fibrosis is pronounced. These local actions on cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts could explain our observation that increased FX expression and activity occurred within the hypertrophied heart, and not in blood plasma, after TAC. Moreover, the increase of cardiac FX expression could offer additional hemostatic protection as blood vessels, particularly capillaries, are prone to damage because of the contraction of cardiac muscle (32). Although the regulation of FX gene transcription in tissues other than liver is not known, early studies on human FX gene expression in liver show that FX can be regulated by HNF-4, SP1/3, and GATA-4 family of transcription factors (33,34). GATA-4 in particular can be activated by various hypertrophic agonists and cyclic mechanical stretch in cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts and has been shown to be critical for cardiac gene expression where it controls embryonic development, cardiomyocyte differentiation, hypertrophy, and stress responsiveness of the adult heart (23,24). Whether transcriptional regulation of the FX gene in the heart is similar to that in the liver remains to be determined. Together, these data show that cardiac cells have the capacity to synthesize mature FX and may represent a local source of this zymogen during the development of pathologic cardiac hypertrophy post-TAC.
In this study we found that treatment with a non-anticoagulant dosage of rivaroxaban attenuated cardiac FXa and thrombin activity along with a reduction in both cardiac hypertrophy and fibrosis induced after TAC. The inhibition of this pathologic remodeling by rivaroxaban was associated with a reduction in ventricular end-diastolic diameter and LV wall thickness, and with a significant improvement of cardiac diastolic function. Importantly, these effects occurred with no impact on circulating thrombin generation and blood coagulation as evidenced by normal aPTT and PT time in both vehicle- and rivaroxaban-treated TAC mice, nor was there an impact on cardiac hemostasis and vascular leak. The absence of hemosiderin deposition in the rivaroxaban-treated mice hearts may be due to normal platelet function, which would compensate for the loss of local FXa/thrombin generation and prevent a hemostatic defect in the heart, or to insufficient inhibition of FXa by rivaroxaban. Therefore, we propose that FXa expression by cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts provides a secondary hemostatic barrier to protect the heart from hemorrhage, but its inhibition does not affect blood vessel hemostasis or intracardiac hemorrhage.
Pathologic cardiac hypertrophy involves re-expression of fetal genes and contractile dysfunction (1,2). In our study, rivaroxaban treatment significantly reduced cardiac hypertrophy and gene expression of several markers of hypertrophy. These data are in line with previous findings showing an antihypertrophic effect of a high dose of rivaroxaban treatment in renin-overexpressing hypertensive mice (12 mg/kg/d) (35) and in a model of pulmonary hypertension in rats (10 mg/kg/d) (36), but is in contrast to a recent study showing a lack of antihypertrophic effects of 30 mg/kg/d rivaroxaban post-TAC (37). Differences in rivaroxaban treatment delivery method (gavage vs. intraperitoneal in our study) or initiation timepoint (1 day postoperatively vs. immediately in our study) could explain such a difference outcome. In this regard, early but not late administration of rivaroxaban has been shown to reduce the impairment of cardiac function in a mouse model of myocardial infarction (38). The hypertrophic effect of FXa on cardiomyocytes was shown in vitro independently of other neuromediators and hormones activated during HF. Herein, we found that concentrations of FXa, similar to that reached during the initiation phase of the coagulation cascade (39), were sufficient to induce hypertrophic genes and eccentric cardiomyocyte hypertrophy, which were completely abrogated by rivaroxaban treatment. Our studies also show that FXa-induced cardiomyocyte hypertrophy was sensitive to inhibition or knockdown of either PAR-1 or PAR-2, consistent with their known impact on eccentric cardiomyocyte hypertrophy in vitro (40) and in vivo (14,16,41). Herein mice deficient in PAR-1 or PAR-2 show reduced cardiac dilatation and adverse cardiac remodeling in response to ischemia reperfusion injury (14,16), whereas transgenic mice expressing PAR-1 or PAR-2 specifically in cardiomyocytes show enhanced cardiac dilation, hypertrophy, and fibrosis (14,41). These data were further corroborated by our findings that rivaroxaban inhibited FXa-mediated Erk5 phosphorylation, a kinase that has been shown to promote eccentric cardiomyocyte hypertrophy in vitro and dilated cardiomyopathy in vivo (42). Collectively, our findings identify cardiomyocytes as a target of FXa in TAC-induced cardiac hypertrophy.
A notable finding of the present study is that treatment with a non-coagulation dosage of rivaroxaban resulted in a reduction in the infiltration of T cells in TAC mouse hearts along with a decrease in various pro-inflammatory cytokines expression (IL-1β, IL-6, and interferon-γ). These results suggest that FXa contributes to cardiac inflammation, which has been shown to play a role in the development of pathologic cardiac hypertrophy in patients and animal models with PO (43,44). Rivaroxaban treatment also markedly reduced cardiac fibrosis and expression of pro-fibrotic genes after PO stress. In vitro experiments with isolated cardiac fibroblasts further demonstrated FXa as a potent inducer of cardiac fibroblast proliferation, migration, and differentiation to myofibroblasts. Moreover, we identified FXa as a critical regulator of NF-κB signaling activation and pro-inflammatory cytokines production, suggesting the involvement of FXa and fibroblasts in the cardiac inflammatory response. Whether rivaroxaban-mediated decrease in fibrosis and myofibroblast differentiation contribute to its anti-inflammatory effects post-TAC or whether rivaroxaban has direct actions on inflammatory cells need further investigation. Mechanistically, FXa-mediated effects on fibroblasts were dependent solely upon PAR-1 signaling, with no sensitivity towards PAR-2 inhibition. These results extend previous findings showing PAR-1 as one of the most abundant G-protein coupled receptors on cardiac fibroblasts that regulates both Erk1/2 activation and fibroblast proliferation (15,26). However, these data in cardiac fibroblasts are distinct from FXa-mediated signaling in cardiomyocytes, which was sensitive to both PAR-1 and PAR-2 antagonists, and in other fibroblast types where FXa-mediated differentiation to myofibroblasts was mediated by only PAR-2 (45). The reason for this discrepancy in FXa-mediated PARs activation between cardiac fibroblasts and other fibroblast types or cardiomyocytes needs further investigation and could be related to the relative expression levels of PAR isoforms, the degree of fibroblast differentiation to myofibroblasts, and/or the differential association with adaptor proteins. However, although our data show a role of FXa-mediated PAR-1 on cardiac fibroblast proliferation, migration, and differentiation, we cannot exclude the formal possibility that FXa-induced cardiac fibrosis is mediated, at least in part, through thrombin. The fact that both FXa and thrombin inhibition (46) reduced cardiac fibrosis post-TAC strongly suggests that the FXa/thrombin pathway could act in parallel with other pathways, such as FXa-mediated PAR-1, fibrin, or other inflammatory pathways, to induce cardiac fibrosis.
One unexpected finding is that rivaroxaban also reduced the effects of thrombin in cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts. These FXa-independent effects of rivaroxaban on thrombin receptor signaling cannot be explained by the direct actions of rivaroxaban on thrombin activity or PAR-1 binding. Rather, rivaroxaban could interfere with PAR signaling, which requires MMP-dependent transactivation of EGFR to mediate its effects (26,47). In support of this hypothesis, we found that rivaroxaban treatment markedly reduced MMP2 activity and EGFR phosphorylation induced after FXa treatment in isolated myocytes and fibroblasts (data not shown). Moreover, inhibition of MMP or EGFR pathways markedly attenuated FXa-mediated signaling, suggesting that rivaroxaban could act directly or indirectly to inhibit MMPs and subsequent EGFR transactivation of PARs. Our finding that MMP2/9 activity was reduced in rivaroxaban-treated TAC hearts suggests that rivaroxaban can modulate thrombin receptor signaling through this mechanism.
The development of drugs that modulate the production or activity of thrombin provided evidence that the hemostatic system may trigger inflammation, fibrosis, and vascular dysfunction, all of which may play a role in the progression of HF (48). Recent clinical studies showed the efficacy of lower doses of rivaroxaban (2.5 mg twice daily), in combination with antiplatelet agents, to reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular causes, myocardial infarction, and stroke in patients with acute coronary syndromes or stable coronary artery disease (5,10). Our study provides new evidence that inhibition of local FXa actions could contribute to the improvement in cardiac remodeling independently of its effect on blood coagulation, thus providing a proof of concept for the efficacy and safety at these low doses of rivaroxaban that could be extended to patient population with PO-induced HF. In addition, the actions of FXa are predicted to be important in the setting of cardiac diseases, in which PAR-1 and/or PAR-2 expression levels are increased, such as after myocardial injury (14,16). However, the non-anticoagulation dosage of rivaroxaban used in our study was equivalent to the lowest dose used in human studies following allometric scaling. Yet this dose did not affect blood coagulation in mice as in human studies. The dosing difference between mice and human could be related to differences in their metabolic rate, heart rate, volume of distribution, and elimination half-life of the drug. Future studies in human assessing the efficacy of subcoagulation doses of rivaroxaban should help answer the question of whether FXa inhibition can reverse or improve early adverse cardiac remodeling.
The present study provides the first evidence for a direct role of FXa signaling in the development of pathologic cardiac remodeling and that these effects can be blocked via FXa inhibition independently of anticoagulant effects. Thus, when viewed as long-term therapy in individuals with PO-induced pathologic cardiac hypertrophy, the addition of non-anticoagulation doses of rivaroxaban could provide an effective therapeutic strategy.
COMPETENCY IN MEDICAL KNOWLEDGE: Patients suffering from HF are at risk of sustaining thromboembolic events partly due to increased activity of pro-coagulant factors and increased platelet activation. Although the primary function of the coagulation cascade is to promote hemostasis and limit blood loss in response to tissue injury, it is now recognized that the physiologic functions of the coagulation factors extend beyond blood coagulation. In this study, we establish that FX expression and activity are increased in the heart following PO stress and are an essential driver of cardiac inflammation, hypertrophy, and fibrosis through direct actions on cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts. From a clinical standpoint, our results imply that inhibition of cardiac FX activity using non-anticoagulation dosage of rivaroxaban could contribute to the improvement in cardiac remodeling and function independently of its effect on blood coagulation and could be extended to patient population with PO compensated hypertrophy and HF.
TRANSLATIONAL OUTLOOK: Clinical studies showed the efficacy of low doses of rivaroxaban in reducing mortality among patients with an acute coronary syndrome and decreased the risk of cardiovascular death, stroke, or myocardial infarction. Our study provides some new evidence that inhibition of local FXa actions in cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts could contribute to the improvement in cardiac remodeling independently of its effect on blood coagulation. Thus, when viewed as long-term therapy in individuals with PO-induced pathologic cardiac hypertrophy, the addition of a non-anticoagulation dosage of FXa inhibitors could be an effective therapy.
This work was supported by the National Institute of Health (HL360338 and HL 360343) and funding from Janssen Pharmaceutical. Dr. Andrade-Gordon has received personal fees from Janssen. Dr. Bunce is an employee of Janssen Research and Development. Dr. Madhu is employed by Janssen; and owns Johnson and Johnson stock. All other authors have reported that they have no relationships relevant to the contents of this paper to disclose.
The authors attest they are in compliance with human studies committees and animal welfare regulations of the authors’ institutions and Food and Drug Administration guidelines, including patient consent where appropriate. For more information, visit the JACC: Basic to Translational Science author instructions page.
- Abbreviations and Acronyms
- activated partial thromboplastin time
- activated coagulation factor X
- heart failure
- protease-activated receptor
- prothrombin time
- transverse aortic constriction
- Received March 18, 2019.
- Revision received October 4, 2019.
- Accepted October 7, 2019.
- 2020 The Authors
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