Atrial fibrillation is a significant worldwide contributor to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Few studies have investigated the differences in gene expression between the left and right atrial appendages, leaving their characterization largely unexplored. In this study, differential gene expression was investigated in atrial fibrillation and sinus rhythm using left and right atrial appendages from the same patients. RNA sequencing was performed on the left and right atrial appendages from five sinus rhythm (SR) control patients and five permanent AF case patients. Differential gene expression in both the left and right atrial appendages was analyzed using the Bioconductor package edgeR. A selection of differentially expressed genes, with relevance to atrial fibrillation, were further validated using quantitative RT-PCR. The distribution of the samples assessed through principal component analysis showed distinct grouping between left and right atrial appendages and between SR controls and AF cases. Overall 157 differentially expressed genes were identified to be downregulated and 90 genes upregulated in AF. Pathway enrichment analysis indicated a greater involvement of left atrial genes in the Wnt signaling pathway whereas right atrial genes were involved in clathrin-coated vesicle and collagen formation. The differing expression of genes in both left and right atrial appendages indicate that there are different mechanisms for development, support and remodeling of AF within the left and right atria.
Keywords: RNA sequencing; atrial fibrillation; differential gene expression; right and left atria.