Associations of Circulating Extracellular RNAs With Myocardial Remodeling and Heart Failure

JAMA Cardiol. 2018 Sep 1;3(9):871-876. doi: 10.1001/jamacardio.2018.2371.


Importance: Mortality is high among patients heart failure (HF) who are receiving treatment, and therefore identifying new pathways rooted in preclinical cardiac remodeling phenotypes may afford novel biomarkers and therapeutic avenues. Circulating extracellular RNAs (ex-RNAs) are an emerging class of biomarkers with target-organ epigenetic effects relevant to myocardial biology, although large human investigations remain limited.

Objective: To measure the association of highly expressed circulating ex-RNAs with left ventricular remodeling and incident HF in a community-based cohort.

Design, setting, and participants: This is a prospective observational cohort study of individuals who were included in the eighth examination of the Framingham Offspring Cohort (2005-2008). Collected data include measurements of the left ventricle via electrocardiography, determination of circulating ex-RNAs in plasma, and incidence of heart failure. Data analysis was completed from December 2016 to June 2018.

Exposures: A total of 398 circulating ex-RNA molecules in plasma were measured by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction; disease ontology analysis was also performed.

Main outcomes and measures: Echocardiographic indices of left ventricular (LV) remodeling and incident heart failure.

Results: A total of 2763 participants of the Framingham Heart Study with measured ex-RNAs (mean [SD] age, 66.3 [9.0] years; 1499 [54.3%] female) were included in this study. Of this sample, 2429 to 2432 individuals had echocardiographic measures recorded (depending on the measurement). A total of 2681 individuals had HF status determined, of whom 116 (4.3%) experienced HF (median [interquartile range] follow-up, 7.7 [6.6-8.6] years). We identified 12 ex-RNAs associated with LV mass and at least 1 other echocardiographic phenotype (LV end-diastolic volume or left atrial dimension). Of these 12 ex-RNAs, 3 micro RNAs (miR-17, miR-20a, and miR-106b) were associated with a 15% reduction in long-term incident HF per 2-fold increase in circulating level during the follow-up period, after adjustments for age, sex, established HF risk factors, and prevalent or interim myocardial infarction. These 3 RNAs shared sequence homology and targeted a shared group of messenger RNAs that specified pathways relevant to HF (eg, transforming growth factor-β signaling, growth/cell cycle, and apoptosis), and shared a disease association with hypertension in disease ontology analysis.

Conclusions and relevance: This study identifies a group of circulating, noncoding RNAs associated with echocardiographic phenotypes, long-term incident HF, and pathways relevant to myocardial remodeling in a large community-based sample. Further investigations into the functional biology of these ex-RNAs are warranted for surveillance for HF prevention.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Echocardiography
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / epidemiology*
  • Heart Failure / genetics
  • Heart Ventricles / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / blood*
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / diagnostic imaging
  • Myocardial Infarction / epidemiology*
  • Myocardial Infarction / genetics
  • Prospective Studies
  • Survival Analysis
  • Ventricular Remodeling*


  • MicroRNAs