Background: Treatment to restore sinus rhythm among patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) has limited long-term success rates. Gene expression profiling may provide new insights into AF pathophysiology.
Objective: To identify biomarkers and improve our understanding of AF pathophysiology by comparing whole blood gene expression before and after electrical cardioversion (ECV).
Methods: In 46 patients with persistent AF that underwent ECV, whole blood samples were collected 1-2 hours before and 4 to 6 weeks after successful cardioversion. The paired samples were sent for microarray and plasma biomarker comparison.
Results: Of 13,942 genes tested, expression of SLC25A20 and PDK4 had the strongest associations with AF. Post-cardioversion, SLC25A20 and PDK4 expression decreased by 0.8 (CI 0.7-0.8, p = 2.0x10-6) and 0.7 (CI 0.6-0.8, p = 3.0x10-5) fold respectively. Median N-terminal pro B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) concentrations decreased from 127.7 pg/mL to 44.9 pg/mL (p = 2.3x10-13) after cardioversion. AF discrimination models combining NT-proBNP and gene expression (NT-proBNP + SLC25A20 area under the curve = 0.88, NT-proBNP + PDK4 AUC = 0.86) had greater discriminative capacity as compared with NT-proBNP alone (AUC = 0.82). Moreover, a model including NT-proBNP, SLC25A20 and PDK4 significantly improved AF discrimination as compared with other models (AUC = 0.87, Net Reclassification Index >0.56, p<5.8x10-3). We validated the association between SLC25A20 and PDK4 with AF in an independent sample of 17 patients.
Conclusion: This study demonstrates that SLC25A20, PDK4, and NT-proBNP have incremental utility as biomarkers discriminating AF from sinus rhythm. Elevated SLC25A20 and PDK4 expression during AF indicates an important role for energy metabolism in AF.