Whole genome and transcriptome sequencing of post-mortem cardiac tissues from sudden cardiac death victims identifies a gene regulatory variant in NEXN

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BACKGROUND: Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a major public health problem and constitutes a diagnostic and preventive challenge in forensic pathology, especially for cases with structural normal hearts at autopsy, so-called sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS). The identification of new genetic risk factors that predispose to SADS is important, because they may contribute to establish the diagnosis and increase the understanding of disease pathways underlying SADS. Pathogenic mutations in the protein coding regions of cardiac genes were found in relation to SADS. However, much remains unknown about variants in non-coding regions of the genome.

METHODS AND RESULTS: In this study, we explored the potential of whole genome sequencing (WGS) and whole transcriptome sequencing (WTS) to find DNA variants in SCD victims with structural normal hearts. With focus on the non-coding regulatory regions, we re-examined a cohort of 13 SADS and sudden unexplained death in infancy (SUDI) victims without disease causing DNA variants in recognized cardiac genes. The genetic re-examination of DNA was carried out using frozen tissue samples and WTS was carried out using five distinct formalin fixed and paraffin embedded (FFPE) cardiac tissue samples from each individual, including anterior and posterior walls of the left ventricle, ventricular papillary muscle, septum, and the right ventricle. We identified 23 candidate variants in regulatory sequences of cardiac genes, including a variant in the promotor region of NEXN, c.-194A>G, that was found to be statistically significantly (p < 0.05) associated with decreased expression of NEXN and cardiac hypertrophy.

CONCLUSION: With the use of post-mortem FFPE tissues, we highlight the potential of using WTS investigations and compare gene expression levels with DNA variation in regulatory non-coding regions of the genome for a better understanding of the genetics of cardiac diseases leading to SCD.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Legal Medicine
Pages (from-to)1699-1709
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 7 Aug 2019

ID: 225717923