Metastable Atrial State Underlies the Primary Genetic Substrate for MYL4 Mutation-Associated Atrial Fibrillation


Zaniar Ghazizadeh, Tuomas Kiviniemi, Sigurast Olafsson, David Plotnick, Manu E Beerens, Kun Zhang, Leah Gillon, Michael J Steinbaugh, Victor Barrera, Shannan Ho Sui, Andreas A Werdich, Sunil Kapur, Antti Eranti, Jarmo Gunn, Juho Jalkanen, Juhani Airaksinen, Andre G Kleber, Maija Hollmén, and Calum A MacRae. 2020. “Metastable Atrial State Underlies the Primary Genetic Substrate for MYL4 Mutation-Associated Atrial Fibrillation.” Circulation, 141, 4, Pp. 301-312.


BACKGROUND: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common clinical arrhythmia and is associated with heart failure, stroke, and increased mortality. The myocardial substrate for AF is poorly understood because of limited access to primary human tissue and mechanistic questions around existing in vitro or in vivo models. METHODS: Using an knock-in reporter line, we developed a protocol to generate and highly purify human pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes displaying physiological and molecular characteristics of atrial cells. We modeled human mutants, one of the few definitive genetic causes of AF. To explore non-cell-autonomous components of AF substrate, we also created a zebrafish knockout model, which exhibited molecular, cellular, and physiologic abnormalities that parallel those in humans bearing the cognate mutations. RESULTS: There was evidence of increased retinoic acid signaling in both human embryonic stem cells and zebrafish mutant models, as well as abnormal expression and localization of cytoskeletal proteins, and loss of intracellular nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide + hydrogen. To identify potentially druggable proximate mechanisms, we performed a chemical suppressor screen integrating multiple human cellular and zebrafish in vivo endpoints. This screen identified Cx43 (connexin 43) hemichannel blockade as a robust suppressor of the abnormal phenotypes in both models of MYL4 (myosin light chain 4)-related atrial cardiomyopathy. Immunofluorescence and coimmunoprecipitation studies revealed an interaction between MYL4 and Cx43 with altered localization of Cx43 hemichannels to the lateral membrane in mutants, as well as in atrial biopsies from unselected forms of human AF. The membrane fraction from MYL4-/- human embryonic stem cell derived atrial cells demonstrated increased phospho-Cx43, which was further accentuated by retinoic acid treatment and by the presence of risk alleles at the Pitx2 locus. PKC (protein kinase C) was induced by retinoic acid, and PKC inhibition also rescued the abnormal phenotypes in the atrial cardiomyopathy models. CONCLUSIONS: These data establish a mechanistic link between the transcriptional, metabolic and electrical pathways previously implicated in AF substrate and suggest novel avenues for the prevention or therapy of this common arrhythmia.