PITX2 Knockout Induces Key Findings of Electrical Remodeling as Seen in Persistent Atrial Fibrillation

C. Schulz*, M.D. Lemoine, G. Mearini, J. Koivumaeki, J. Sani, E. Schwedhelm, P. Kirchhof, A. Ghalawinji, M. Stoll, A. Hansen, T. Eschenhagen, T. Christ*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background:Electrical remodeling in human persistent atrial fibrillation is believed to result from rapid electrical activation of the atria, but underlying genetic causes may contribute. Indeed, common gene variants in an enhancer region close to PITX2 (paired-like homeodomain transcription factor 2) are strongly associated with atrial fibrillation, but the mechanism behind this association remains unknown. This study evaluated the consequences of PITX2 deletion (PITX2(-/-)) in human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived atrial cardiomyocytes. Methods:CRISPR/Cas9 (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat-associated 9) was used to delete PITX2 in a healthy human iPSC line that served as isogenic control. Human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived atrial cardiomyocytes were differentiated with unfiltered retinoic acid and cultured in atrial engineered heart tissue. Force and action potential were measured in atrial engineered heart tissues. Single human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived atrial cardiomyocytes were isolated from atrial engineered heart tissue for ion current measurements. Results:PITX2(-/-) atrial engineered heart tissue beats slightly slower than isogenic control without irregularity. Force was lower in PITX2(-/-) than in isogenic control (0.053 +/- 0.015 versus 0.131 +/- 0.017 mN, n=28/3 versus n=28/4, PITX2(-/-) versus isogenic control; P<0.0001), accompanied by lower expression of CACNA1C and lower L-type Ca2+ current density. Early repolarization was weaker (action potential duration at 20% repolarization; 45.5 +/- 13.2 versus 8.6 +/- 5.3 ms, n=18/3 versus n=12/4, PITX2(-/-) versus isogenic control; P<0.0001), and maximum diastolic potential was more negative (-78.3 +/- 3.1 versus -69.7 +/- 0.6 mV, n=18/3 versus n=12/4, PITX2(-/-) versus isogenic control; P=0.001), despite normal inward rectifier currents (both I-K1 and I-K,I-ACh) and carbachol-induced shortening of action potential duration. Conclusions:Complete PITX2 deficiency in human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived atrial cardiomyocytes recapitulates some findings of electrical remodeling of atrial fibrillation in the absence of fast beating, indicating that these abnormalities could be primary consequences of lower PITX2 levels.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere011602
Number of pages13
JournalCirculation-Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023


  • atrial fibrillation
  • atrial remodeling
  • carbachol
  • humans
  • myocytes
  • cardiac
  • I-KUR
  • RISK

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