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1.  Cardiac involvement in Caucasian patients with pulmonary sarcoidosis 
Respiratory Research  2014;15(1):15.
Cardiac sarcoidosis (CS) is a potentially life-threatening condition. At present, there is no consensus with regard to the optimal non-invasive clinical evaluation and diagnostic procedures of cardiac involvement in patients with sarcoidosis. The aim of this study in a large homogenous Scandinavian sarcoidosis cohort was therefore to identify risk factors of cardiac involvement in patients with sarcoidosis, and the value of initial routine investigation with ECG and cardiac related symptoms in screening for CS.
In this retrospective study a cohort of 1017 Caucasian patients with sarcoidosis were included. They were all screened with ECG at disease onset and investigated for CS according to clinical routine.
An abnormal ECG was recorded in 166 (16.3%) of the 1017 patients and CS was later diagnosed in 22 (13.2%) of them, compared to in one (0.1%) of the 851 sarcoidosis patients with a normal ECG (p < 0.0001). The risk for CS was higher in patients with a pathologic ECG combined with cardiac related symptoms (11/40) (27.5%) compared to those with pathologic ECG changes without symptoms (11/126) (8.7%) (p < 0.01). Furthermore, patients with Löfgren’s syndrome had a reduced risk for CS compared to those without (p < 0.05) the syndrome.
This study on an unusually large and homogenous sarcoidosis population demonstrate the importance of an abnormal ECG and cardiac related symptoms at disease onset as powerful predictors of a later diagnosis of cardiac sarcoidosis. In contrast, CS is very rare in subjects without symptoms and with a normal ECG. This knowledge is of importance, and may be used in a clinical algorithm, in identifying patients that should be followed and investigated extensively for the presence of CS.
PMCID: PMC3922031  PMID: 24506975
Cardiac sarcoidosis; Extra-pulmonary involvement; Cardiovascular magnetic resonance; Human leukocyte antigen; Sarcoidosis
3.  Sex differences in response to maximal exercise stress test in trained adolescents 
BMC Pediatrics  2012;12:127.
Sex comparisons between girls and boys in response to exercise in trained adolescents are missing and we investigated similarities and differences as a basis for clinical interpretation and guidance.
A total of 24 adolescent females and 27 adolescent males aged 13–19 years underwent a maximal bicycle exercise stress test with measurement of cardiovascular variables, cardiac output, lung volumes, metabolic factors/lactate concentrations and breath-by-breath monitoring of ventilation, and determination of peak VO2.
Maximum heart rate was similar in females (191 ± 9 bpm) and males (194 ± 7 bpm), cardiac index at maximum exercise was lower in females (7.0 ± 1.0 l/min/m2) than in males (8.3 ± 1.4 l/min/m2, P < 0.05). Metabolic responses and RQ at maximum exercise were similar (females: 1.04 ± 0.06 vs. males: 1.05 ± 0.05). Peak VO2 was lower in females (2.37 ± 0.34 l/min) than in males (3.38 ± 0.49 l/min, P < 0.05). When peak VO2 was normalized to leg muscle mass sex differences disappeared (females: 161 ± 21 ml/min/kg vs. males: 170 ± 23 ml/min/kg). The increase in cardiac index during exercise is the key factor responsible for the greater peak VO2 in adolescent boys compared to girls.
Differences in peak VO2 in adolescent boys and girls disappear when peak VO2 is normalized to estimated leg muscle mass and therefore provide a tool to conduct individual and intersex comparisons of fitness when evaluating adolescent athletes in aerobic sports.
PMCID: PMC3472286  PMID: 22906070
Adolescent; Sex; Body composition; Exercise stress test; ECG; Blood pressure; Peak VO2; Ventilation; Lactate
4.  Cysteinyl Leukotriene Signaling Aggravates Myocardial Hypoxia in Experimental Atherosclerotic Heart Disease 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41786.
Cysteinyl-leukotrienes (cys-LT) are powerful spasmogenic and immune modulating lipid mediators involved in inflammatory diseases, in particular asthma. Here, we investigated whether cys-LT signaling, in the context of atherosclerotic heart disease, compromises the myocardial microcirculation and its response to hypoxic stress. To this end, we examined Apoe−/− mice fed a hypercholesterolemic diet and analysed the expression of key enzymes of the cys-LT pathway and their receptors (CysLT1/CysLT2) in normal and hypoxic myocardium as well as the potential contribution of cys-LT signaling to the acute myocardial response to hypoxia.
Methods and principal findings
Myocardial biopsies from Apoe−/− mice demonstrated signs of chronic inflammation with fibrosis, increased apoptosis and expression of IL-6, as compared to biopsies from C57BL/6J control mice. In addition, we found increased leukotriene C4 synthase (LTC4S) and CysLT1 expression in the myocardium of Apoe−/− mice. Acute bouts of hypoxia further induced LTC4S expression, increased LTC4S enzyme activity and CysLT1 expression, and were associated with increased extension of hypoxic areas within the myocardium. Inhibition of cys-LT signaling by treatment with montelukast, a selective CysLT1 receptor antagonist, during acute bouts of hypoxic stress reduced myocardial hypoxic areas in Apoe−/− mice to levels equal to those observed under normoxic conditions. In human heart biopsies from 14 patients with chronic coronary artery disease mRNA expression levels of LTC4S and CysLT1 were increased in chronic ischemic compared to non-ischemic myocardium, constituting a molecular basis for increased cys-LT signaling.
Our results suggest that CysLT1 antagonists may have protective effects on the hypoxic heart, and improve the oxygen supply to areas of myocardial ischemia, for instance during episodes of sleep apnea.
PMCID: PMC3404957  PMID: 22848603
5.  The Chromosome 9p21.3 Coronary Heart Disease Risk Allele Is Associated with Altered Gene Expression in Normal Heart and Vascular Tissues 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39574.
Genome-wide association studies have identified a coronary artery disease (CAD) risk locus in a non-coding region at 9p21.3, the nearest genes being CDKN2A and CDKN2B. To understand the pathways by which this locus might influence CAD susceptibility, we investigated associations between the 9p21.3 risk genotype and global gene expression in heart tissue from donors with no diagnosed heart disease (n = 108, predominant cause of death, cerebral vascular accident) and in carotid plaque (n = 106), aorta (n = 104) and mammary artery (n = 88) tissues from heart valve and carotid endarterectomy patients. Genotyping was performed with Taqman assays and Illumina arrays, and gene expression profiles generated with Affymetrix microarrays. Associations were analyzed with an additive genetic model. In heart tissue, 46 genes were putatively altered in association with the 9p21.3 risk allele (70% down-regulated, fold-change >1.1 per allele, p<0.05 adjusted for age, gender, ethnicity, cause of death). These genes were enriched for biomarkers of myocardial infarction (p = 1.53×10−9), response to wounding (p = 2.65×10−10) and inflammatory processes (p<1.97×10−7). Among the top 10 most down-regulated genes, 7 genes shared a set of transcription factor binding sites within conserved promoter regions (p<1.14×10−5), suggesting they may be co-regulated. Canonical pathway modelling of the most differentially expressed transcripts across all tissues (154 genes, 60% down-regulated, fold-change >1.1 per allele, p<0.01) showed that 75% of the genes could be transcriptionally regulated through the cell cycle G1 phase progression pathway (p<1.08×10−258), in which CDKN2A and CDKN2B play a regulatory role. These data suggest that the cell cycle G1 phase progression pathway is activated in individuals with the 9p21.3 risk allele. This may contribute to a proliferative phenotype that promotes adverse cardiac hypertrophy and vascular remodeling, leading to an increased CAD risk.
PMCID: PMC3387158  PMID: 22768093
6.  Prediction of Ischemic Events on the Basis of Transcriptomic and Genomic Profiling in Patients Undergoing Carotid Endarterectomy 
Molecular Medicine  2012;18(1):669-675.
Classic risk factors, including age, smoking, serum cholesterol, diabetes and blood pressure, constitute the basis of present risk prediction models but fail to identify all individuals at risk. The objective of this study was to investigate if genomic and transcriptional patterns improve prediction of ischemic events in patients with established carotid artery disease. Genotype and gene expression profiles were obtained from carotid plaque tissue (n = 126) and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (n = 97) of patients undergoing carotid endarterectomy. Patients were followed for an average of 44 months, and 25 ischemic events occurred (18 ischemic strokes and 7 myocardial infarctions). Blinded leave-one-out cross-validation on Cox regression coefficients was used to assign gene expression–based risk scores to each patient. When compared with classic risk factors, addition of carotid plaque gene expression–based risk score improved the prediction of future ischemic events from an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.66 to an AUC of 0.79. The inclusion of gene expression risk score from peripheral blood mononuclear cells or from 25 established myocardial infarction risk single nucleotide polymorphisms only exhibited marginal effects on the prediction of ischemic events. Prediction of ischemic events is improved by inclusion of gene expression profiling from carotid endarterectomy tissue compared with prediction on the basis of classic risk markers alone in patients with atherosclerosis. The method may be developed to identify subjects at very high risk of ischemic events.
PMCID: PMC3388132  PMID: 22371308
8.  Unraveling Divergent Gene Expression Profiles in Bicuspid and Tricuspid Aortic Valve Patients with Thoracic Aortic Dilatation: The ASAP Study 
Molecular Medicine  2011;17(11-12):1365-1373.
Thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA) is a common complication in patients with a bicuspid aortic valve (BAV), the most frequent congenital heart disorder. For unknown reasons TAA occurs at a younger age, with a higher frequency in BAV patients than in patients with a tricuspid aortic valve (TAV), resulting in an increased risk for aortic dissection and rupture. To investigate the increased TAA incidence in BAV patients, we obtained tissue biopsy samples from nondilated and dilated aortas of 131 BAV and TAV patients. Global gene expression profiles were analyzed from controls and from aortic intima-media and adventitia of patients (in total 345 samples). Of the genes found to be differentially expressed with dilation, only a few (<4%) were differentially expressed in both BAV and TAV patients. With the use of gene set enrichment analysis, the cell adhesion and extracellular region gene ontology sets were identified as common features of TAA in both BAV and TAV patients. Immune response genes were observed to be particularly overexpressed in the aortic media of dilated TAV samples. The divergent gene expression profiles indicate that there are fundamental differences in TAA etiology in BAV and TAV patients. Immune response activation solely in the aortic media of TAV patients suggests that inflammation is involved in TAA formation in TAV but not in BAV patients. Conversely, genes were identified that were only differentially expressed with dilation in BAV patients. The result has bearing on future clinical studies in which separate analysis of BAV and TAV patients is recommended.
PMCID: PMC3321821  PMID: 21968790
9.  Endogenous control genes in complex vascular tissue samples 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:516.
Gene expression microarrays and real-time PCR are common methods used to measure mRNA levels. Each method has a fundamentally different approach of normalization between samples. Relative quantification of gene expression using real-time PCR is often done using the 2^(-ΔΔCt) method, in which the normalization is performed using one or more endogenous control genes. The choice of endogenous control gene is often arbitrary or bound by tradition. We here present an analysis of the differences in expression results obtained with microarray and real-time PCR, dependent on different choices of endogenous control genes.
In complex tissue, microarray data and real-time PCR data show the best correlation when endogenous control genes are omitted and the normalization is done relative to total RNA mass, as measured before reverse transcription.
We have found that for real-time PCR in heterogeneous tissue samples, it may be a better choice to normalize real-time PCR Ct values to the carefully measured mass of total RNA than to use endogenous control genes. We base this conclusion on the fact that total RNA mass normalization of real-time PCR data shows better correlation to microarray data. Because microarray data use a different normalization approach based on a larger part of the transcriptome, we conclude that omitting endogenous control genes will give measurements more in accordance with actual concentrations.
PMCID: PMC2779820  PMID: 19900295
10.  Relationship between CAD Risk Genotype in the Chromosome 9p21 Locus and Gene Expression. Identification of Eight New ANRIL Splice Variants 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(11):e7677.
Several genome-wide association studies have recently linked a group of single nucleotide polymorphisms in the 9p21 region with cardiovascular disease. The molecular mechanisms of this link are not fully understood. We investigated five different expression microarray datasets in order to determine if the genotype had effect on expression of any gene transcript in aorta, mammary artery, carotid plaque and lymphoblastoid cells.
Methodology/Principal Findings
After multiple testing correction, no genes were found to have relation to the rs2891168 risk genotype, either on a genome-wide scale or on a regional (8 MB) scale. The neighbouring ANRIL gene was found to have eight novel transcript variants not previously known from literature and these varied by tissue type. We therefore performed a detailed probe-level analysis and found small stretches of significant relation to genotype but no consistent associations. In all investigated tissues we found an inverse correlation between ANRIL and the MTAP gene and a positive correlation between ANRIL and CDKN2A and CDKN2B.
Investigation of relation of the risk genotype to gene expression is complicated by the transcript complexity of the locus. With our investigation of a range of relevant tissue we wish to underscore the need for careful attention to the complexity of the alternative splicing issues in the region and its implications to the design of future gene expression studies.
PMCID: PMC2765615  PMID: 19888323
11.  GeneRegionScan: a Bioconductor package for probe-level analysis of specific, small regions of the genome 
Bioinformatics  2009;25(15):1978-1979.
Summary: Whole-genome microarrays allow us to interrogate the entire transcriptome of a cell. Affymetrix microarrays are constructed using several probes that match to different regions of a gene and a summarization step reduces this complexity into a single value, representing the expression level of the gene or the expression level of an exon in the case of exon arrays. However, this simplification eliminates information that might be useful when focusing on specific genes of interest. To address these limitations, we present a software package for the R platform that allows detailed analysis of expression at the probe level. The package matches the probe sequences against a target gene sequence (either mRNA or DNA) and shows the expression levels of each probe along the gene. It also features functions to fit a linear regression based on several genetic models that enables study of the relationship between gene expression and genotype.
Availability and implementation: The software is implemented as a platform-independent R package available through the Bioconductor repository at It is licensed as GPL 2.0.
Supplementary Information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC2712334  PMID: 19398447

Results 1-11 (11)