Whole blood transcriptomics in cardiac surgery identifies a gene regulatory network connecting ischemia reperfusion with systemic inflammation

PLoS One. 2010 Oct 27;5(10):e13658. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013658.


Background: Cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass (CS/CPB) is associated with increased risk for postoperative complications causing substantial morbidity and mortality. To identify the molecular mechanisms underlying CS/CPB-induced pathophysiology we employed an integrative systems biology approach using the whole blood transcriptome as the sentinel organ.

Methodology/principal findings: Total RNA was isolated and globin mRNA depleted from whole blood samples prospectively collected from 10 patients at time points prior (0), 2 and 24 hours following CS/CPB. Genome-wide transcriptional analysis revealed differential expression of 610 genes after CS/CPB (p<0.01). Among the 375 CS/CPB-upregulated genes, we found a gene-regulatory network consisting of 50 genes, reminiscent of activation of a coordinated genetic program triggered by CS/CPB. Intriguingly, the highly connected hub nodes of the identified network included key sensors of ischemia-reperfusion (HIF-1alpha and C/EBPbeta). Activation of this network initiated a concerted inflammatory response via upregulation of TLR-4/5, IL1R2/IL1RAP, IL6, IL18/IL18R1/IL18RAP, MMP9, HGF/HGFR, CalgranulinA/B, and coagulation factors F5/F12 among others. Differential regulation of 13 candidate genes including novel, not hitherto CS/CBP-associated genes, such as PTX3, PGK1 and Resistin, was confirmed using real-time quantitative RT-PCR. In support of the mRNA data, differential expression of MMP9, MIP1alpha and MIP1beta plasma proteins was further confirmed in 34 additional patients.

Conclusions: Analysis of blood transcriptome uncovered critical signaling pathways governing the CS/CPB-induced pathophysiology. The molecular signaling underlying ischemia reperfusion and inflammatory response is highly intertwined and includes pro-inflammatory as well as cardioprotective elements. The herein identified candidate genes and pathways may provide promising prognostic biomarker and therapeutic targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Proteins / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Gene Regulatory Networks*
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reperfusion Injury / blood
  • Reperfusion Injury / genetics*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / blood
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / genetics*
  • Thoracic Surgical Procedures*


  • Blood Proteins