Asporin, an extracellular matrix protein, is a beneficial regulator of cardiac remodeling.

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Matrix Biology


Heart failure is accompanied by adverse cardiac remodeling involving extracellular matrix (ECM). Cardiac ECM acts as a major reservoir for many proteins including growth factors, cytokines, collagens, and proteoglycans. Activated fibroblasts during cardiac injury can alter the composition and activity of these ECM proteins. Through unbiased analysis of a microarray dataset of human heart tissue comparing normal hearts (n=135) to hearts with ischemic cardiomyopathy (n=94), we identified Asporin (ASPN) as the top differentially regulated gene (DEG) in ischemic cardiomyopathy; its gene-ontology terms relate closely to fibrosis and cell death. ASPN is a Class I small leucine repeat protein member implicated in cancer, osteoarthritis, and periodontal ligament mineralization. However, its role in cardiac remodeling is still unknown. Here, we initially confirmed our big dataset analysis through cells, mice, and clinical atrial biopsy samples to demonstrate increased Aspn expression after pressure overload or cardiac ischemia/reperfusion injury. We tested the hypothesis that Aspn, being a TGFβ1 inhibitor, can attenuate fibrosis in mouse models of cardiac injury. We found that Aspn is released by cardiac fibroblasts and attenuates TGFβ signaling. Moreover, Aspn-/- mice displayed increased fibrosis and decreased cardiac function after pressure overload by transverse aortic constriction (TAC) in mice. In addition, Aspn protected cardiomyocytes from hypoxia/reoxygenation-induced cell death and regulated mitochondrial bioenergetics in cardiomyocytes. Increased infarct size after ischemia/reperfusion injury in Aspn-/- mice confirmed Aspn's contribution to cardiomyocyte viability. Echocardiography revealed greater reduction in left ventricular systolic function post-I/R in the Aspn-/- animals compared to wild type. Furthermore, we developed an ASPN-mimic peptide using molecular modeling and docking which when administered to mice prevented TAC-induced fibrosis and preserved heart function. The peptide also reduced infarct size after I/R in mice, demonstrating the translational potential of ASPN-based therapy. Thus, we establish the role of ASPN as a critical ECM molecule that regulates cardiac remodeling to preserve heart function.



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