A Peripheral Blood Signature of Vasodilator-Responsive Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension
Background—Heterogeneity in response to treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a major challenge to improving outcome in this disease. Although vasodilator responsive PAH (VR-PAH) accounts for a minority of cases, VR-PAH has a pronounced response to calcium channel blockers and better survival than non-responsive PAH (VN-PAH). We hypothesized that VR-PAH has a different molecular etiology from VN-PAH that can be detected in the peripheral blood.
Methods and Results—Microarrays of cultured lymphocytes from VR-PAH and VN-PAH patients followed at Vanderbilt University were performed with quantitative PCR performed on peripheral blood for the 25 most different genes. We developed a decision tree to identify VR-PAH patients based on the results with validation in a second VR-PAH cohort from the University of Chicago. We found broad differences in gene expression patterns on microarray analysis including cell-cell adhesion factors, cytoskeletal and rho/GTPase genes. 13/25 genes tested in whole blood were significantly different: EPDR1, DSG2, SCD5, P2RY5, MGAT5, RHOQ, UCHL1, ZNF652, RALGPS2, TPD52, MKNL1, RAPGEF2 and PIAS1. Seven decision trees were built using expression levels of two genes as the primary genes: DSG2, a desmosomal cadherin involved in Wnt/β-catenin signaling, and RHOQ, which encodes a cytoskeletal protein involved in insulin-mediated signaling. These trees correctly identified 5/5 VR-PAH in the validation cohort.
Conclusions—VR-PAH and VN-PAH can be differentiated using RNA expression patterns in peripheral blood. These differences may reflect different molecular etiologies of the two PAH phenotypes. This biomarker methodology may identify PAH patients that have a favorable treatment response.
- Received September 16, 2014.
- Revision received October 20, 2014.
- Accepted October 24, 2014.