Background: Substantial evidences support the hypothesis that the epicardium has a role in cardiac repair and regeneration in part providing, by epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), progenitor cells that differentiate into cardiac cell types and in part releasing paracrine factors that contribute to cardiac repair. Beside cell contribution, a significant paracrine communication occurs between the epicardium and the myocardium that improves the whole regenerative response. Signaling pathways underlying this communication are multiple as well as soluble factors involved in cardiac repair and secreted both by myocardial and epicardial cells. Most recently, extracellular vesicles, i.e. exosomes, that accumulate in the pericardial fluid (PF) and are able to transport bioactive molecules (cytosolic proteins, mRNAs, miRNAs and other non-coding RNAs), have been also identified as potential mediators of epicardial-mediated repair following myocardial injury.
Conclusions: This mini review provides an overview of the epicardial-myocardial signaling in regulating cardiac repair in ischemic heart diseases. Indeed, a detailed understanding of the crosstalk between myocardial and epicardial cells and how paracrine mechanisms are involved in the context of ischemic heart diseases would be of tremendous help in developing novel therapeutic approaches to promote cardiomyocytes survival and heart regeneration following myocardial infarction (MI).