Early-Onset Atrial Fibrillation and the Prevalence of Rare Variants in Cardiomyopathy and Arrhythmia Genes

Zachary T. Yoneda, MD, MSCI1; Katherine C. Anderson, MS, CSG1; Joseph A. Quintana, MD1; Matthew J. O’Neill, BS2; Richard A. Sims, MD1; Andrew M. Glazer, PhD3; Christian M. Shaffer, BS3; Diane M. Crawford, RN1; Thomas Stricker, MD, PhD4; Fei Ye, PhD5; Quinn Wells, MD, MSCI1; Lynne W. Stevenson, MD1; Gregory F. Michaud, MD1; Dawood Darbar, MBChB, MD6; Steven A. Lubitz, MD, MPH7,8; Patrick T. Ellinor, MD, PhD7,8; Dan M. Roden, MD1,9,10,11; M. Benjamin Shoemaker, MD, MSCI1

1Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee

JAMA Cardiol. Published online September 8, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2021.3370

Original Investigation

September 8, 2021


Importance  Early-onset atrial fibrillation (AF) can be the initial manifestation of a more serious underlying inherited cardiomyopathy or arrhythmia syndrome.

Objective  To examine the results of genetic testing for early-onset AF.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This prospective, observational cohort study enrolled participants from an academic medical center who had AF diagnosed before 66 years of age and underwent whole genome sequencing through the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine program. Participants were enrolled from November 23, 1999, to June 2, 2015. Data analysis was performed from October 24, 2020, to March 11, 2021.

Exposures  Rare variants identified in a panel of 145 genes that are included on cardiomyopathy and arrhythmia panels used by commercial clinical genetic testing laboratories.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Sequencing data were analyzed using an automated process followed by manual review by a panel of independent, blinded reviewers. The primary outcome was classification of rare variants using American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics criteria: benign, likely benign, variant of undetermined significance, likely pathogenic, or pathogenic. Disease-associated variants were defined as pathogenic/likely pathogenic variants in genes associated with autosomal dominant or X-linked dominant disorders.

Results  Among 1293 participants (934 [72.2%] male; median [interquartile range] age at enrollment, 56 [48-61] years; median [interquartile range] age at AF diagnosis, 50 [41-56] years), genetic testing identified 131 participants (10.1%) with a disease-associated variant, 812 (62.8%) with a variant of undetermined significance, 92 (7.1%) as heterozygous carriers for an autosomal recessive disorder, and 258 (20.0%) with no suspicious variant. The likelihood of a disease-associated variant was highest in participants with AF diagnosed before the age of 30 years (20 of 119 [16.8%; 95% CI, 10.0%-23.6%]) and lowest after the age of 60 years (8 of 112 [7.1%; 95% CI, 2.4%-11.9%]). Disease-associated variants were more often associated with inherited cardiomyopathy syndromes compared with inherited arrhythmias. The most common genes were TTN (n = 38), MYH7 (n = 18), MYH6 (n = 10), LMNA (n = 9), and KCNQ1 (n = 8).

Conclusions and Relevance  In this cohort study, genetic testing identified a disease-associated variant in 10% of patients with early-onset AF (the percentage was higher if diagnosed before the age of 30 years and lower if diagnosed after the age of 60 years). Most pathogenic/likely pathogenic variants are in genes associated with cardiomyopathy. These results support the use of genetic testing in early-onset AF.

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