Gain-of-function mutations in GATA6 lead to atrial fibrillation

Heart Rhythm. 2017 Feb;14(2):284-291. doi: 10.1016/j.hrthm.2016.10.014. Epub 2016 Oct 15.


Background: The genetic basis of atrial fibrillation (AF) and congenital heart disease remains incompletely understood.

Objective: We sought to determine the causative mutation in a family with AF, atrial septal defects, and ventricular septal defects.

Methods: We evaluated a pedigree with 16 family members, 1 with an atrial septal defect, 1 with a ventricular septal defect, and 3 with AF; we performed whole exome sequencing in 3 affected family members. Given that early-onset AF was prominent in the family, we then screened individuals with early-onset AF, defined as an age of onset <66 years, for mutations in GATA6. Variants were functionally characterized using reporter assays in a mammalian cell line.

Results: Exome sequencing in 3 affected individuals identified a conserved mutation, R585L, in the transcription factor gene GATA6. In the Massachusetts General Hospital Atrial Fibrillation (MGH AF) Study, the mean age of AF onset was 47.1 ± 10.9 years; 79% of the participants were men; and there was no evidence of structural heart disease. We identified 3 GATA6 variants (P91S, A177T, and A543G). Using wild-type and mutant GATA6 constructs driving atrial natriuretic peptide promoter reporter, we found that 3 of the 4 variants had a marked upregulation of luciferase activity (R585L: 4.1-fold, P < .0001; P91S: 2.5-fold, P = .0002; A177T; 1.7-fold, P = .03). In addition, when co-overexpressed with GATA4 and MEF2C, GATA6 variants exhibited upregulation of the alpha myosin heavy chain and atrial natriuretic peptide reporter activity.

Conclusion: Overall, we found gain-of-function mutations in GATA6 in both a family with early-onset AF and atrioventricular septal defects as well as in a family with sporadic, early-onset AF.

Keywords: Atrial fibrillation; Genetics; Mutation; Transcription factor.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Atrial Fibrillation* / diagnosis
  • Atrial Fibrillation* / epidemiology
  • Atrial Fibrillation* / genetics
  • Exome Sequencing* / methods
  • Female
  • GATA6 Transcription Factor / genetics*
  • Heart Septal Defects, Atrial* / diagnosis
  • Heart Septal Defects, Atrial* / epidemiology
  • Heart Septal Defects, Atrial* / genetics
  • Heart Septal Defects, Ventricular* / diagnosis
  • Heart Septal Defects, Ventricular* / epidemiology
  • Heart Septal Defects, Ventricular* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • Pedigree


  • GATA6 Transcription Factor
  • GATA6 protein, human