Atrial Fibrillation Associated Genetic Variants and Left Atrial Histology: Evaluation for Molecular Sub-Phenotypes

J Cardiovasc Electrophysiol. 2016 Nov;27(11):1264-1270. doi: 10.1111/jce.13083. Epub 2016 Sep 20.


Introduction: Genome wide association studies have identified several single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with atrial fibrillation (AF), but the mechanisms underlying these relationships have not yet been elucidated. Inflammation and fibrosis have been posited as important mechanisms responsible for AF. We sought to investigate the impact of SNP carrier status on inflammation and fibrosis in left atrial appendage tissue.

Methods and results: Carrier status of 10 AF-associated SNPs was evaluated on DNA extracted from left atrial appendage tissue in 176 individuals (120 with AF). The presence of inflammation was evaluated through visual quantification of leukocyte infiltration following hematoxylin and eosin staining, while fibrosis was quantified using picrosirius red with fast green staining. Unadjusted and adjusted linear and logistic regression models were utilized to evaluate for an association between SNP carrier status and inflammation and fibrosis. On adjusted logistic regression analysis, the rs7164883 SNP (intronic within HCN4) was associated with a reduced odds of inflammation (odds ratio: 0.42; 95% CI: 0.22-0.81, P = 0.01), and was not associated with fibrosis on adjusted linear regression analysis (β-coefficient: -0.31; 95% CI: -1.03-0.40, P = 0.40). None of the remaining SNPs exhibited significant associations with left atrial inflammation or fibrosis.

Conclusions: Among 10 AF-associated SNPs, a single genetic variant was associated with reduced left atrial inflammation, while no histologic differences were observed in the remaining 9. The known AF-associated SNPs do not appear to predispose to the development of pro-inflammatory or pro-fibrotic AF sub-phenotypes.

Keywords: atrial fibrillation; fibrosis; genetics; inflammation.