RATIONALE: Pulmonary hypertension encompasses progressive disorders leading to right ventricular dysfunction and early death. Late detection is an important cause of poor clinical outcomes. However, biomarkers that accurately predict the presence of pulmonary hypertension are currently lacking.
OBJECTIVES: In this study we provide evidence that blood platelets contain a distinctive RNA profile that may be exploited for detection of pulmonary hypertension.
METHODS: Blood platelet RNA was isolated prospectively from 177 prevalent patients with different subtypes of pulmonary hypertension as well as 195 controls clinically not suspected of pulmonary hypertension. Sequencing libraries were created using SMARTer cDNA amplification, and sequenced on the Illumina HiSeq platform. RNA-sequencing reads were mapped to the human reference genome, and intron-spanning spliced RNA reads were selected. Differential spliced RNA panels were calculated by ANOVA-statistics. A particle swarm optimisation (PSO)-enhanced classification algorithm was built employing a development (n=213 samples) and independent validation series (n=159 samples).
RESULTS: We detected a total of 4014 different RNAs in blood platelets from pulmonary hypertension patients (n=177) and asymptomatic controls (n=195). GSEA gene ontology analysis revealed enriched RNA levels for genes related to RNA-processing, translation and mitochondrial function. A PSO-selected RNA panel of 408 distinctive differentially spliced RNAs mediated detection of pulmonary hypertension with 93% sensitivity, 62% specificity, 77% accuracy, 0.89 (95%CI 0.83-0.93) area under the curve and a negative predictive value of 91% in the independent validation series. Prediction score was independent of age, sex, smoking, pulmonary hypertension subtype, and the use of pulmonary hypertension-specific medication or anti-coagulants.
CONCLUSION: A platelet RNA-panel may accurately discriminate patients with pulmonary hypertension from asymptomatic controls. In the light of current diagnostic delays, this study is the starting point for further development and evaluation of a platelet RNA-based blood test, to ultimately improve early diagnosis and clinical outcomes in patients with pulmonary hypertension.