Hypertension is a significant risk factor for the development of cardiovascular ailments, including ischemic heart disease and diastolic dysfunction. In a recent issue of Clinical Science, Li et al. [Clin. Sci. (2018) 132, 1855–1874] report that β-2 microglobulin (β2M) is a novel secreted soluble factor released by cardiac myocytes during pressure overload that promotes profibrotic gene expression in cardiac fibroblasts both in vitro and in vivo. Their study further identifies elevated β2M levels as a possible biomarker for hypertensive patients with cardiac complications. The authors propose a mechanism that mechanically stretched cardiomyocytes release soluble β2M which, through paracrine communication with cardiac fibroblasts, transactivates epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) to initiate acute signal transduction and up-regulate profibrotic genes, thereby promoting fibrosis. Here, we will discuss the background, significance of the study, alternative mechanisms, and future directions.

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