AIMS: Experimental Autoimmune Myocarditis (EAM) model mirrors important mechanisms of inflammatory dilated cardiomyopathy (iDCM). In EAM, inflammatory CD133(+) progenitors are a major cellular source of cardiac myofibroblasts in post-inflammatory myocardium. We hypothesized that exogenous delivery of Macrophage-Colony Stimulating Factor (M-CSF) can stimulate macrophage lineage differentiation of inflammatory progenitors and therefore prevent their naturally occurring myofibroblast fate in EAM.Methods and ResultsEAM was induced in wild-type (BALB/c) and Nitric oxide synthase 2 deficient (Nos2(-/-)) mice and CD133(+) progenitors were isolated from inflamed hearts. In vitro, M-CSF converted inflammatory CD133(+) progenitors into nitric oxide-producing F4/80(+) macrophages and prevented TGF-β-mediated myofibroblast differentiation. Importantly, only a subset of heart-infiltrating CD133(+) progenitors expresses macrophage-specific antigen F4/80 in EAM. These CD133(+)/F4/80(hi) cells show impaired myofibrogenic potential compared to CD133(+)/F4/80(-) cells. M-CSF treatment of wild-type mice with EAM at the peak of disease markedly increased CD133(+)/F4/80(hi) cells in the myocardium, and CD133(+) progenitors isolated from M-CSF-treated mice failed to differentiate into myofibroblasts. In contrast, M-CSF was not effective in converting CD133(+) progenitors from inflamed hearts of Nos2(-/-) mice into macrophages, and M-CSF treatment did not result in increased CD133(+)/F4/80(hi) cell population in hearts of Nos2(-/-) mice. Accordingly, M-CSF prevented post-inflammatory fibrosis and left ventricular dysfunction in wild-type but not in Nos2(-/-) mice. CONCLUSIONS: Active and NOS2-dependent induction of macrophage lineage differentiation abrogates the myofibrogenic potential of heart-infiltrating CD133(+) progenitors. Modulating the in vivo differentiation fate of specific progenitors might become a novel approach for the treatment of inflammatory heart diseases.