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Myocardial interstitial fibrosis is a common thread in multiple cardiovascular diseases including heart failure, atrial fibrillation, conduction disease and sudden cardiac death. To investigate the biologic pathways that underlie interstitial fibrosis in the human heart, we developed a machine learning model to measure myocardial T1 time, a marker of myocardial interstitial fibrosis, in 42,654 UK Biobank participants. Greater T1 time was associated with impaired glucose metabolism, systemic inflammation, renal disease, aortic stenosis, cardiomyopathy, heart failure, atrial fibrillation and conduction disease. In genome-wide association analysis, we identified 12 independent loci associated with native myocardial T1 time with evidence of high genetic correlation between the interventricular septum and left ventricle free wall (r2g = 0.82). The identified loci implicated genes involved in glucose homeostasis (SLC2A12), iron homeostasis (HFE, TMPRSS6), tissue repair (ADAMTSL1, VEGFC), oxidative stress (SOD2), cardiac hypertrophy (MYH7B) and calcium signaling (CAMK2D). Transcriptome-wide association studies highlighted the role of expression of ADAMTSL1 and SLC2A12 in human cardiac tissue in modulating myocardial tissue characteristics and interstitial fibrosis. Harnessing machine learning to perform large-scale phenotyping of interstitial fibrosis in the human heart, our results yield novel insights into biologically relevant pathways for myocardial fibrosis and prioritize investigation of pathways for the development of anti-fibrotic therapies.

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