Patient-specific TBX5-G125R Variant Induces Profound Transcriptional Deregulation and Atrial Dysfunction

Antoinette F van Ouwerkerk, Fernanda M Bosada, Karel van Duijvenboden, Arjan C Houweling, Koen T Scholman, Vincent Wakker, Cornelis P Allaart, Jae-Sun Uhm, Inge B Mathijssen, Ton Baartscheer, Alex V Postma, Phil Barnett, Arie O Verkerk, Bastiaan J Boukens, Vincent M Christoffels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: The pathogenic missense variant p.G125R in TBX5 (T-box transcription factor 5) causes Holt-Oram syndrome (also known as hand-heart syndrome) and early onset of atrial fibrillation. Revealing how an altered key developmental transcription factor modulates cardiac physiology in vivo will provide unique insights into the mechanisms underlying atrial fibrillation in these patients. METHODS: We analyzed ECGs of an extended family pedigree of Holt-Oram syndrome patients. Next, we introduced the TBX5-p.G125R variant in the mouse genome (Tbx5G125R) and performed electrophysiologic analyses (ECG, optical mapping, patch clamp, intracellular calcium measurements), transcriptomics (single-nuclei and tissue RNA sequencing), and epigenetic profiling (assay for transposase-accessible chromatin using sequencing, H3K27ac [histone H3 lysine 27 acetylation] CUT&RUN [cleavage under targets and release under nuclease sequencing]). RESULTS: We discovered high incidence of atrial extra systoles and atrioventricular conduction disturbances in Holt-Oram syndrome patients. Tbx5G125R/+ mice were morphologically unaffected and displayed variable RR intervals, atrial extra systoles, and susceptibility to atrial fibrillation, reminiscent of TBX5-p.G125R patients. Atrial conduction velocity was not affected but systolic and diastolic intracellular calcium concentrations were decreased and action potentials were prolonged in isolated cardiomyocytes of Tbx5G125R/+ mice compared with controls. Transcriptional profiling of atria revealed the most profound transcriptional changes in cardiomyocytes versus other cell types, and identified over a thousand coding and noncoding transcripts that were differentially expressed. Epigenetic profiling uncovered thousands of TBX5-p.G125R-sensitive, putative regulatory elements (including enhancers) that gained accessibility in atrial cardiomyocytes. The majority of sites with increased accessibility were occupied by Tbx5. The small group of sites with reduced accessibility was enriched for DNA-binding motifs of members of the SP (specificity protein) and KLF (Krüppel-like factor) families of transcription factors. These data show that Tbx5-p.G125R induces changes in regulatory element activity, alters transcriptional regulation, and changes cardiomyocyte behavior, possibly caused by altered DNA binding and cooperativity properties. CONCLUSIONS: Our data reveal that a disease-causing missense variant in TBX5 induces profound changes in the atrial transcriptional regulatory network and epigenetic state in vivo, leading to arrhythmia reminiscent of those seen in human TBX5-p.G125R variant carriers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)606-619
Number of pages14
Issue number8
Early online date3 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2022

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