Objective: The roles of microRNAs (miRNAs) in coronary heart disease (CHD) have not been well characterized. This study sought to systematically characterize the complex genomic architecture of CHD by integrating whole blood miRNA and mRNA expression with genetic variation in 186 CHD cases and 186 controls.
Approach and results: At false discovery rate <0.2, 15 miRNAs were differentially expressed between CHD cases and controls. To explore regulatory mechanisms, we integrated miRNA and mRNA expression with genome-wide genotype data to investigate miRNA and mRNA associations and relationships of genetic variation with miRNAs. We identified a large number of correlated miRNA-mRNA pairs and genetic loci that seem to regulate miRNA levels. Subsequently, we explored the relationships of these complex molecular associations with CHD status. We identified a large difference in miRNA-mRNA associations between CHD cases and controls, as demonstrated by a significantly higher proportion of inversely correlated miRNA-mRNA pairs in cases versus controls (80% versus 30%; P<1×10(-16)), suggesting a genome-wide shift in the regulatory structure of the transcriptome in CHD. The differentially coexpressed miRNA-mRNA pairs showed enrichment for CHD risk genetic variants affecting both miRNA and mRNA expression levels, implicating a putatively causal role in CHD. Furthermore, 3 miRNAs (miR-1275, miR-365a-3p, and miR-150-5p) were associated with an mRNA coexpression module that was causally linked to CHD and reflected the dysregulation of B-cell centered immune function.
Conclusions: Our results provide novel evidence that miRNAs are important regulators of biological processes involved in CHD via genetic control and via their tight coexpression with mRNAs.
Keywords: coronary disease; genetics; systems biology.
© 2015 American Heart Association, Inc.