Aims: Recent studies suggest that atrial fibrillation (AF) substantially influences microvascular flow in ventricular myocardium. This process may contribute to the occurrence of heart failure in AF. In general, development of heart failure and renal dysfunction go hand-in-hand causing systemic fluid overload and oedema. So far, it is unknown whether AF itself influences renal function. The aim of the present study was to determine the impact of AF on renal gene expression in a closed chest rapid atrial pacing model.
Methods and results: A total of 14 pigs were studied. In five pigs, rapid atrial pacing (AT) was performed for 7 h (600 bpm); in five additional animals, rapid atrial pacing was performed in the presence of irbesartan infusion (irbesartan group). Four pigs were instrumented without interventions (sham). After the pacing period, renal expression of collagen I alpha 1 and I alpha 3, transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), neutral endopeptidase (NEP; the main enzyme involved in natriuretic protein metabolism), and atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) were determined by RT-PCR and immunoblot analysis. Functional in vitro experiments were performed using HEK-293 kidney cells. Renal mRNA expression of NEP was substantially down-regulated during AT (AT: 12.7 +/- 9.3% vs. sham: 100 +/- 43.4%; P < 0.01). Results at the mRNA level were confirmed at the protein level. Irbesartan therapy did not prevent down-regulation of NEP. In contrast, TGF-beta1 mRNA expression was up-regulated (AT: 208.5 +/- 79.3% vs. sham: 100 +/- 34.6% P< 0.05). Collagen and angiotensin II type 1 receptor (AT1R) expression were not significantly altered by AT. HEK-293 cells were used to determine the potential humoral factors involved in down-regulation of NEP. Application of aldosterone, ANP, asymmetric dimethylarginine, and angiotensin peptides failed to cause down-regulation of renal NEP expression in vitro.
Conclusion: AT reduces NEP expression and stimulates TGF-beta1 signalling in the kidneys. Thus, even brief episodes of AT affect renal gene expression, which may account for structural renal changes and alterations of renal function in the long term.