A Variant Noncoding Region Regulates Prrx1 and Predisposes to Atrial Arrhythmias

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Rationale: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common cardiac arrhythmia diagnosed in clinical practice. Genome-wide association studies have identified AF-associated common variants across 100+ genomic loci, but the mechanism underlying the impact of these variant loci on AF susceptibility in vivo has remained largely undefined. One such variant region, highly associated with AF, is found at 1q24, close to PRRX1, encoding the paired-related homeobox 1 transcription factor. Objective: To identify the mechanistic link between the variant region at 1q24 and AF predisposition. Methods and Results: The mouse orthologue of the noncoding variant genomic region (R1A) at 1q24 was deleted using CRISPR genome editing. Among the genes sharing the topologically associated domain with the deleted R1A region (Kifap3, Prrx1, Fmo2, and Prrc2c), only the broadly expressed gene Prrx1 was downregulated in mutants, and only in cardiomyocytes. Expression and epigenetic profiling revealed that a cardiomyocyte lineage-specific gene program (Mhrt, Myh6, Rbm20, Tnnt2, Ttn, and Ckm) was upregulated in R1A-/-atrial cardiomyocytes and that Mef2 (myocyte enhancer factor)-binding motifs were significantly enriched at differentially accessible chromatin sites. Consistently, Prrx1 suppressed Mef2-activated enhancer activity in HL-1 cells. Mice heterozygous or homozygous for the R1A deletion were susceptible to atrial arrhythmia induction, had atrial conduction slowing and more irregular RR intervals. Isolated R1A-/-mouse left atrial cardiomyocytes showed lower action potential upstroke velocities and sodium current, as well as increased systolic and diastolic calcium concentrations compared with controls. Conclusions: The noncoding AF variant region at 1q24 modulates Prrx1 expression in cardiomyocytes. Cardiomyocyte-specific reduction of Prrx1 expression upon deletion of the noncoding region leads to a profound induction of a cardiac lineage-specific gene program and to propensity for AF. These data indicate that AF-associated variants in humans may exert AF predisposition through reduced PRRX1 expression in cardiomyocytes. Graphic Abstract: A graphic abstract is available for this article.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-434
Number of pages15
JournalCirculation Research
Issue number3
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • atrial fibrillation
  • chromatin
  • electrophysiology
  • gene expression
  • transcription factors

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