By employing a proteomic analysis on supernatant of mechanically stretched cardiomyocytes, we found that stretch induced a significantly high level of β-2 microglobulin (β2M), a non-glycosylated protein, which is related to inflammatory diseases but rarely known in cardiovascular diseases. The present data showed that serum β2M level was increased in patients with hypertension and further increased in patients with chronic heart failure (HF) as compared with control group, and the high level of serum β2M level correlated to cardiac dysfunction in these patients. In pressure overload mice model by transverse aortic constriction (TAC), β2M levels in serum and heart tissue increased progressively in a time-dependent manner. Exogenous β2M showed pro-fibrotic effects in cultured cardiac fibroblasts but few effects in cardiomyocytes. Adeno-associated virus 9 (AAV9)-mediated knockdown of β2M significantly reduced cardiac β2M level and inhibited myocardial fibrosis and cardiac dysfunction but not cardiac hypertrophy at 4 weeks after TAC. In vitro, mechanical stretch induced the rapid secretion of β2M mainly from cardiomyocytes by activation of extracellular-regulated protein kinase (ERK). Conditional medium (CM) from mechanically stretched cardiomyocytes activated cultured cardiac fibroblasts, and the effect was partly abolished by CM from β2M-knockdown cardiomyocytes. In vivo, knockdown of β2M inhibited the increase in phosphorylation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) induced by TAC. In cultured cardiac fibroblasts, inhibition of EGFR significantly attenuated the β2M-induced the activation of EGFR and pro-fibrotic responses. The present study suggests that β2M is a paracrine pro-fibrotic mediator and associated with cardiac dysfunction in response to pressure overload.

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