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.