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The pulmonary myocardium is a muscular coat surrounding the pulmonary and caval veins. Although its definitive physiological function is unknown, it may have a pathological role as the source of ectopic beats initiating atrial fibrillation. How the pulmonary myocardium gains pacemaker function is not clearly defined, although recent evidence indicates that changed transcriptional gene expression networks are at fault. The gene expression profile of this distinct cell type in situ was examined to investigate underlying molecular events that might contribute to atrial fibrillation. Via systems genetics, a whole-lung transcriptome data set from the BXD recombinant inbred mouse resource was analyzed, uncovering a pulmonary cardiomyocyte gene network of 24 transcripts, coordinately regulated by chromosome 1 and 2 loci. Promoter enrichment analysis and interrogation of publicly available ChIP-seq data suggested that transcription of this gene network may be regulated by the concerted activity of NKX2-5, serum response factor, myocyte enhancer factor 2, and also, at a post-transcriptional level, by RNA binding protein motif 20. Gene ontology terms indicate that this gene network overlaps with molecular markers of the stressed heart. Therefore, we propose that perturbed regulation of this gene network might lead to altered calcium handling, myocyte growth, and contractile force contributing to the aberrant electrophysiological properties observed in atrial fibrillation. We reveal novel molecular interactions and pathways representing possible therapeutic targets for atrial fibrillation. In addition, we highlight the utility of recombinant inbred mouse resources in detecting and characterizing gene expression networks of relatively small populations of cells that have a pathological significance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2999-3017
Number of pages19
JournalG3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


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