Tissue extracellular matrix (ECM) provides structural support and creates unique environments for resident cells (Bateman JF, Boot-Handford RP, Lamandé SR. Nat Rev Genet 10: 173–183, 2009; Kjaer M. Physiol Rev 84: 649–98, 2004). However, the identities of cells responsible for creating specific ECM components have not been determined. In striated muscle, the identity of these cells becomes important in disease when ECM changes result in fibrosis and subsequent increased tissue stiffness and dysfunction. Here we describe a novel approach to isolate and identify cells that maintain the ECM in both healthy and fibrotic muscle. Using a collagen I reporter mouse, we show that there are three distinct cell populations that express collagen I in both healthy and fibrotic skeletal muscle. Interestingly, the number of collagen I-expressing cells in all three cell populations increases proportionally in fibrotic muscle, indicating that all cell types participate in the fibrosis process. Furthermore, while some profibrotic ECM and ECM-associated genes are significantly upregulated in fibrotic muscle, the fibrillar collagen gene expression profile is not qualitatively altered. This suggests that muscle fibrosis in this model results from an increased number of collagen I-expressing cells and not the initiation of a specific fibrotic collagen gene expression program. Finally, in fibrotic muscle, we show that these collagen I-expressing cell populations differentially express distinct ECM proteins—fibroblasts express the fibrillar components of ECM, fibro/adipogenic progenitors cells differentially express basal laminar proteins, and skeletal muscle progenitor cells differentially express genes important for the satellite cell.
- extracellular matrix
- skeletal muscle
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