Atherosclerosis is a progressive inflammatory disease that causes lipid accumulation in the arterial wall, leading to the formation of plaques. The clinical manifestations of plaque rupture—stroke and myocardial infarction—are increasing worldwide and pose an enormous economic burden for society. Atherosclerosis development reflects a complex interaction between environmental exposures and genetic predisposition. To understand this complexity, we hypothesized that a top-down approach—one in which all molecular activities that drive atherosclerosis are examined simultaneously—is necessary to highlight those that are clinically relevant. To this end, we performed whole-genome expression profiling in multiple tissues isolated from patients with coronary artery disease (CAD).
In the Stockholm Atherosclerosis Gene Expression (STAGE) study, biopsies of five tissues (arterial wall with and without atherosclerotic lesions, liver, skeletal muscle and visceral fat) were isolated from 124 CAD patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting surgery (CABG) at the Karolinska University Hospital, Solna and carotid lesions from 39 patients undergoing carotid artery surgery at Stockholm Söder Hospital. Detailed clinical characteristics of these patients were assembled together with a total of 303 global gene expression profiles obtained with the Affymetrix GeneChip platform.
In paper 1, a two-way clustering analysis of the data identified 60 tissue clusters of functionally related genes. One cluster, partly present in both visceral fat and atherosclerotic lesions, related to atherosclerosis severity as judged by coronary angiograms. Many of the genes in that cluster were also present in a carotid lesion cluster relating to intima-media thickness (IMT) in the carotid patients. The union of all three clusters relating to extent of atherosclerosis—referred to as the “A-module”—was overrepresented with genes belonging to the transendothelial migration of leukocyte (TEML) pathway. The transcription co-factor, Lim domain binding 2 (LDB2), was identified as putative regulator of the A-module and TEML pathway in validation studies including Ldb2-/- mice.
In paper 2, we investigated the increased incidence of postoperative complications in CABG patients with diabetes. Using the STAGE compendium, we identified an anti-inflammatory marker, dual-specificity phosphatase 1 (DUSP1), as a novel preoperative blood marker of risk for a prolonged hospital stay after CABG.
In paper 3, plaque age was determined with C14-dating in the carotid patients. Interestingly, the strongest correlation with plaque age was not the age of the patients or IMT. Rather, the strongest correlations were with plasma insulin levels and inflammatory gene expression.
Taken together, the findings in this thesis show that a top-down approach using multi-tissue gene expression profiling in CAD and C14-dating of plaques can contribute to a better understanding of the molecular processes underlying atherosclerosis development and to the identification of clinically useful biomarkers.
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press , 2009. , 43 p.
2009-12-18, Thoraxaulan, Karolinska Universitetssjukhuset, Solna, N2:U1, Stockholm, 09:00 (English)
Björkegren, Johan, Associate ProfessorTegnér, Jesper, ProfessorSkogsberg, Josefin, Assistant Professo