Background: In the second trimester of human fetal development, a tenfold increase in fetal size occurs while cardiac valves grow and retain their function. Patterns of transcription in normally growing human aortic valves are unknown. Methods: Discarded human aortic valve samples were collected from the second trimester, 6 from early (14, 15, 17 weeks) and 6 from late (20, 21, 22 weeks) gestation. Network analysis of RNA sequencing data identified subnetworks of significantly increasing and decreasing transcripts. Subsequent cluster analysis identified patterns of transcription through the time course. Pathway enrichment analysis determined the predominant biological processes at each interval. Results: We observed phasic transcription over the time course, including an early decrease in cell proliferation and developmental genes (14 to 15 weeks). Pattern specification, shear stress, and adaptive immune genes were induced early. Cell adhesion genes were increased from 14 to 20 weeks. A phase involving cell differentiation and apoptosis (17 to 20 weeks) was followed by downregulation of endothelial-to-mesenchymal transformation genes and then by increased extracellular matrix organization and stabilization (20 to 22 weeks). Conclusions: We present a unique data set, comprehensively characterizing human valve development after valve primordia are formed, focusing on key processes displayed by normal aortic valves undergoing significant growth. We build a time course of genes and processes in second trimester fetal valve growth and observe the sequential regulation of gene clusters over time. Critical valve growth genes are potential targets for therapeutic intervention in congenital heart disease and have implications for regenerative medicine and tissue engineering.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine