Macrophage Smad3 protects the infarcted heart, stimulating phagocytosis and regulating inflammation

Bijun Chen, Shuaibo Huang, Ya Su, Yi Jin Wu, Anis Hanna, Adipong Brickshawana, Jonathan Graff, Nikolaos G. Frangogiannis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Rationale: TGF (transforming growth factor)-β is critically involved in myocardial injury, repair, and fibrosis, activating both Smad (small mothers against decapentaplegic)-dependent and non-Smad pathways. The in vivo role of TGF-β signaling in regulation of macrophage function is poorly understood. We hypothesized that in the infarcted myocardium, activation of TGF-β/Smad signaling in macrophages may regulate repair and remodeling. Objective: To investigate the role of macrophage-specific TGF-β Smad3 signaling in a mouse model of myocardial infarction and to dissect the mechanisms mediating Smad-dependent modulation of macrophage function. Methods and Results: TGF-βs markedly activated Smad3 in macrophages, without affecting Smad-independent pathways. Phagocytosis rapidly and directly activated macrophage Smad3, in the absence of active TGF-β release. MyS3KO (myeloid cell–specific Smad3 knockout) mice had no baseline defects but exhibited increased late mortality and accentuated dilative postmyocardial infarction remodeling. Adverse outcome in infarcted MyS3KO mice was associated with perturbations in phagocytic activity, defective transition of macrophages to an anti-inflammatory phenotype, scar expansion, and accentuated apoptosis of border zone cardiomyocytes. In vitro, Smad3 null macrophages exhibited reduced expression of genes associated with eat-me signals, such as Mfge8 (milk fat globule-epidermal growth factor factor 8), and reduced capacity to produce the anti-inflammatory mediators IL (interleukin)-10 and TGF-β1, and the angiogenic growth factor VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor). Mfge8 partly rescued the phagocytic defect of Smad3 null macrophages, without affecting inflammatory activity. Impaired anti-inflammatory actions of Smad3 null macrophages were associated with marked attenuation of phagocytosis-induced PPAR (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor) expression. MyS3KO mice had no significant alterations in microvascular density and interstitial fibrosis in remodeling myocardial segments. Conclusions: We demonstrate that Smad3 critically regulates function of infarct macrophages, by mediating acquisition of a phagocytic phenotype and by contributing to anti-inflammatory transition. Smad3-dependent actions in macrophages protect the infarcted heart from adverse remodeling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-70
Number of pages16
JournalCirculation research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019


  • Cytokine
  • Inflammation
  • Macrophage
  • Phagocytosis
  • Transforming growth factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Macrophage Smad3 protects the infarcted heart, stimulating phagocytosis and regulating inflammation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this