DOI: 10.1161/circresaha.115.307778 ISSN:

Revisiting Cardiac Cellular Composition

Alexander R. Pinto, Alexei Ilinykh, Malina J. Ivey, Jill T. Kuwabara, Michelle L. D’Antoni, Ryan Debuque, Anjana Chandran, Lina Wang, Komal Arora, Nadia A. Rosenthal, Michelle D. Tallquist
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology


Accurate knowledge of the cellular composition of the heart is essential to fully understand the changes that occur during pathogenesis and to devise strategies for tissue engineering and regeneration.


To examine the relative frequency of cardiac endothelial cells, hematopoietic-derived cells, and fibroblasts in the mouse and human heart.

Methods and Results:

Using a combination of genetic tools and cellular markers, we examined the occurrence of the most prominent cell types in the adult mouse heart. Immunohistochemistry revealed that endothelial cells constitute >60%, hematopoietic-derived cells 5% to 10%, and fibroblasts <20% of the nonmyocytes in the heart. A refined cell isolation protocol and an improved flow cytometry approach provided an independent means of determining the relative abundance of nonmyocytes. High-dimensional analysis and unsupervised clustering of cell populations confirmed that endothelial cells are the most abundant cell population. Interestingly, fibroblast numbers are smaller than previously estimated, and 2 commonly assigned fibroblast markers, Sca-1 and CD90, under-represent fibroblast numbers. We also describe an alternative fibroblast surface marker that more accurately identifies the resident cardiac fibroblast population.


This new perspective on the abundance of different cell types in the heart demonstrates that fibroblasts comprise a relatively minor population. By contrast, endothelial cells constitute the majority of noncardiomyocytes and are likely to play a greater role in physiological function and response to injury than previously appreciated.

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