Background. Mitochondrial dysfunction is associated with poor allograft prognosis. Mitochondrial-related gene expression (GE) in endomyocardial biopsies (EMBs) could be useful as a nonimmune functional marker of rejection. We hypothesize that acute cardiac allograft rejection is associated with decreased mitochondrial-related GE in EMBs. Methods. We collected 64 routines or clinically indicated EMB from 47 patients after heart transplant. The EMBs were subjected to mRNA sequencing. We conducted weighted gene coexpression network analysis to construct module-derived eigengenes. The modules were assessed by gene ontology enrichment and hub gene analysis. Modules were correlated with the EMBs following the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation histology-based criteria and a classification based on GE alone; we also correlated with clinical parameters. Results. The modules enriched with mitochondria-related and immune-response genes showed the strongest correlation to the clinical traits. Compared with the no-rejection samples, rejection samples had a decreased activity of mitochondrial-related genes and an increased activity of immune-response genes. Biologic processes and hub genes in the mitochondria-related modules were primarily involved with energy generation, substrate metabolism, and regulation of oxidative stress. Compared with International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation criteria, GE-based classification had stronger correlation to the weighted gene coexpression network analysis-derived functional modules. The brain natriuretic peptide level, ImmuKnow, and Allomap scores had negative relationships with the expression of mitochondria-related modules and positive relationships with immune-response modules. Conclusions. During acute cardiac allograft rejection, there was a decreased activity of mitochondrial-related genes, related to an increased activity of immune-response genes, and depressed allograft function manifested by brain natriuretic peptide elevation. This suggests a rejection-associated mitochondrial impairment.
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