Increased α-Actinin-2 Expression in the Atrial Myocardium of Patients with Atrial Fibrillation Related to Rheumatic Heart Disease

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Abstract

Objectives:

Atrial fibrosis, a marker of atrial structural remodeling, plays a critical role in atrial fibrillation (AF). α- Actinin-2 is associated with structural remodeling related to stretching. The transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1)/Smad pathway plays an important role in atrial fibrosis. We investigated the effects of the TGF-β1/Smad signaling pathway on α-actinin-2 in atrial fibrosis in patients with AF.

Methods:

Forty-one right atrial specimens obtained from patients with rheumatic heart disease (RHD) were divided into a chronic (c)AF group, i.e. RHD + cAF (n = 29), and a sinus rhythm group, i.e. RHD + sinus rhythm (n = 12). Patients with congenital heart disease (CHD) and sinus rhythm who underwent heart surgery served as controls (n = 10). Fibrosis was assessed by histological examination, and expression of α-actinin-2, TGF-β1 and Smad2/phosphorylated Smad2 (p-Smad2) was evaluated by immunohistochemistry, quantitative real-time PCR and Western blotting. In rat atrial fibroblasts treated with TGF-β1, the collagen content was measured using hydroxyproline detection, and α-actinin-2 and p-Smad2 were evaluated by semiquantitative reverse-transcription PCR and Western blotting.

Results:

The histology results revealed a significant increase in atrial fibrosis in AF patients. The collagen content, mRNA and protein expression levels of α-actinin-2 and the components of the TGF-β1/Smad signaling pathway were significantly gradually increased in the CHD + sinus rhythm, RHD + sinus rhythm and RHD + cAF groups (p < 0.05). The mRNA and protein levels of α-actinin-2 and TGF-β1 in RHD patients were positively correlated with the collagen volume fraction. A positive correlation between the expression of α-actinin-2 and TGF-β1 was also observed. In rat atrial fibroblasts treated with TGF-β1, the collagen content was greater than that in the control group (p < 0.05), and the expression levels of α- actinin-2 and p-Smad2 were also upregulated (p < 0.05).

Conclusions:

α-Actinin-2 expression was increased in the atrial tissues of patients with AF secondary to RHD. α-Actinin-2 was upregulated via the TGF-β1/Smad pathway in atrial fibroblasts, which suggests that it may be involved in TGF-β1/Smad pathway-induced atrial fibrosis in patients with AF.

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