PloS one

2D and 3D-organized cardiac cells shows differences in cellular morphology, adhesion junctions, presence of myofibrils and protein expression.

PMID 22662278


Cardiac cells are organized in vivo in a complex tridimensional structural organization that is crucial for heart function. While in vitro studies can reveal details about cardiac cell biology, usually cells are grown on simplified two-dimensional (2D) environments. To address these differences, we established a cardiac cell culture composed of both 2D and three-dimensional (3D)-organized cells. Our results shows significant differences between the two culture contexts in relation to the overall morphology of the cells, contraction ability, proliferation rate, presence of intercellular adhesion structures, organization of myofibrils, mitochondria morphology, endoplasmic reticulum contents, cytoskeletal filaments and extracellular matrix distribution, and expression of markers of cardiac differentiation. Cardiac cells grown in 2D-context displayed a flattened and well spread shape, were mostly isolated and their cytoplasm was filled with a large network of microfilaments and microtubules. In contrast, 3D-cells were smaller in size, were always in close contact with each other with several cellular junctions, and displayed a less conspicuous cytoskeletal network. 3D-cells had more mitochondria and myofibrils and these cells contract spontaneously more often than 2D-cells. On the other hand, endoplasmic reticulum membranes were present in higher amounts in 2D-cells when compared to 3D-cells. The expression of desmin, cadherin and alpha-actinin was higher in 3D-aggregates compared to 2D-spread cells. These findings indicate that the tridimensional environment in which the cardiac cells are grown influence several aspects of cardiac differentiation, including cell adhesion, cell shape, myofibril assembly, mitochondria contents and protein expression. We suggest that the use of this cardiac culture model, with 2D and 3D-context cells, could be useful for studies on the effects of different drugs, or growth factors, giving valuable information on the biological response of cells grown in different spatial organizations.