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Genomic analysis reveals a functional role for myocardial trabeculae in adults

By Hannah Verena Meyer, Timothy JW Dawes, Marta Serrani, Wenjia Bai, PaweĊ‚ Tokarczuk, Jiashen Cai, Antonio de Marvao, Daniel Rueckert, P. M. Matthews, Maria L Costantino, Ewan Birney, Stuart A Cook, Declan P O'Regan

Posted 22 Feb 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/553651 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2635-8)

Since being first described by Leonardo da Vinci in 1513 it has remained an enigma why the endocardial surfaces of the adult heart retain a complex network of muscular trabeculae - with their persistence thought to be a vestige of embryonic development. For causative physiological inference we harness population genomics, image-based intermediate phenotyping and in silico modelling to determine the effect of this complex cardiovascular trait on function. Using deep learning-based image analysis we identified genetic associations with trabecular complexity in 18,097 UK Biobank participants which were replicated in an independently measured cohort of 1,129 healthy adults. Genes in these associated regions are enriched for expression in the fetal heart or vasculature and implicate loci associated with haemodynamic phenotypes and developmental pathways. A causal relationship between increasing trabecular complexity and both ventricular performance and electrical activity are supported by complementary biomechanical simulations and Mendelian randomisation studies. These findings show that myocardial trabeculae are a previously-unrecognised determinant of cardiovascular physiology in adult humans.

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