A specialized population of Periostin-expressing cardiac fibroblasts contributes to postnatal cardiomyocyte maturation and innervation.
During the postnatal period in mammals, the cardiac muscle transitions from hyperplasic to hypertrophic growth, the extracellular matrix (ECM) undergoes remodeling, and the heart loses regenerative capacity. While ECM maturation and crosstalk between cardiac fibroblasts (CFs) and cardiomyocytes (CM) have been implicated in neonatal heart development, not much is known about specialized fibroblast heterogeneity and function in the early postnatal period. In order to better understand CF functions in heart maturation and postnatal cardiomyocyte cell cycle arrest, we have performed gene expression profiling and ablation of postnatal CF populations. Fibroblast lineages expressing Tcf21 or Periostin were traced in transgenic GFP reporter mice and their biological functions and transitions during the postnatal period were examined in sorted cells using RNAseq. Highly proliferative Periostin (Postn)+ lineage CFs were found from postnatal day (P)1 to P11 but were not detected at P30, due to a repression of Postn gene expression. This population was less abundant and transcriptionally different from Tcf21+ resident CFs. The specialized Postn+ population preferentially expresses genes related to cell proliferation and neuronal development, while Tcf21+ CFs differentially express genes related to ECM maturation at P7 and immune crosstalk at P30. Ablation of the Postn+ CFs from P0 to P6 led to altered cardiac sympathetic nerve patterning and a reduction in binucleation and hypertrophic growth with increased fetal troponin (TroponinI1) expression in CM. Thus, postnatal CFs are heterogeneous and include a transient proliferative Postn+ population required for cardiac nerve development and cardiomyocyte maturation soon after birth.