Image_2_Rapid Atrial Pacing Promotes Atrial Fibrillation Substrate in Unanesthetized Instrumented Rats.pdf

Aim

The self-perpetuating nature of atrial fibrillation (AF) has been a subject of intense research in large mammalian models exposed to rapid atrial pacing (RAP). Recently, rodents are increasingly used to gain insight into the pathophysiology of AF. However, little is known regarding the effects of RAP on the atria of rats and mice. Using an implantable device for electrophysiological studies in rodents, we examined on a daily basis, the effects of continuous RAP on the developed AF substrate of unanesthetized rats and mice.

Methods and Results

Aggressive burst pacing did not induce AF at baseline in the large majority of rodents, but repeatedly induced AF episodes in rats exposed to RAP for more than 2 days. A microarray study of left atrial tissue from rats exposed to RAP for 2 days vs. control pacing identified 304 differentially expressed genes. Enrichment analysis and comparison with a dataset of atrial tissue from AF patients revealed indications of increased carbohydrate metabolism and changes in pathways that are thought to play critical roles in human AF, including TGF-beta and IL-6 signaling. Among 19 commonly affected genes in comparison with human AF, downregulation of FOXP1 and upregulation of the KCNK2 gene encoding the Kir2.1 potassium channel were conspicuous findings, suggesting NFAT activation. Further results included reduced expression of MIR-26 and MIR-101, which is in line with NFAT activation.

Conclusion

Our results demonstrate electrophysiological evidence for AF promoting effects of RAP in rats and several molecular similarities between the effects of RAP in large and small mammalian models.