MicroRNA-29 and an Integrated Understanding of Atrial Fibrillation

October 2013 | Volume 12 | Issue 10 | Editorials | 1083 | Copyright © October 2013

Christopher S. Hale MDa and William R. Levis MDb

aDepartment of Pathology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY
bDepartment of Dermatology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY

The T-cell disorders psoriasis and celiac disease are epidemiologically linked to atrial fibrillation (AF), a known inflammatory and fibrotic disorder.1,2 Indirect evidence has emerged for a humoral autoimmune pathogenesis for AF.3 We believe that AF, like psoriasis, is in fact a TH1, TH17, and TH22-related autoimmune disorder related to microRNA-ome dysregulation. MicroRNA-29 (mir29), in particular, may lead to an integrated understanding of AF. Liston et al recently highlighted mir29’s role in regulating the polarity of the adaptive immune response.4 In the setting of mir29 deficiency, such as seen in AF, T cells are predisposed to an activated TH1 immunophenotype. Atrial biopsies from patients with AF show frequent lymphocytic myocarditis, compatible with this hypothesis.5 Flow cytometric findings also support a T-cell etiology, as peripheral blood from AF patients shows upregulation of the T-cell activation markers CD69 and HLA-DR.6 Furthermore, microRNA-29 contributes to the fibrotic arrhythmogenic substrate of atrial fibrillation (AF).7 Mir29 normally functions to inhibit fibrosis by suppressing mRNA of extracellular matrix genes (including collagens and fibrillin). These new insights into mir29’s functions further support a role for the adaptive immune system in the immunopathogenesis of AF. We recommend that AF investigators team up with immunologists in search for pathogenic T cells.


The authors have no relevant conflicts of interest to disclose.


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  3. Li H, Scherlag BJ, Kem DC, et al. Atrial tachycardia provoked in the presence of activating autoantibodies to beta2-adrenergic receptor in the rabbit. Heart Rhythm 2013;10:436-441.
  4. Liston A, Papadopoulou AS, Danso-Abeam D, Dooley J. MicroRNA-29 in the adaptive immune system: setting the threshold. Cell Mol Life Sci 2012;69:3533-3541.
  5. Frustaci A, Chimenti C, Bellocci F, Morgante E, Russo MA, Maseri A. Histological substrate of atrial biopsies in patients with lone atrial fibrillation. Circulation 1997;96:1180-1184.
  6. Liu L, Lee J, Fu G, et al. Activation of peripheral blood CD3(+) T-lymphocytes in patients with atrial fibrillation. Int Heart J 2012;53:221-224.
  7. Dawson K, Wakili R, Ordog B, et al. MicroRNA29: a mechanistic contributor and potential biomarker in atrial fibrillation. Circulation 2013;127:1466-1475, 1475e1461-1428.


Christopher S. Hale MDhalec01@nyumc.org