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Eberly College of Arts and Sciences




Our group recently identified a panel of ten genes whose RNA expression levels in whole blood have utility for detection of stroke. The purpose of this study was to determine the mechanisms by which these genes become differentially expressed during stroke pathology. First, we assessed the transcriptional distribution of the ten genes across the peripheral immune system by measuring their expression levels on isolated neutrophils, monocytes, B-lymphocytes, CD-4+ T-lymphocytes, CD-8+ T-lymphocytes, and NK-cells generated from the blood of healthy donors (n = 3). Then, we examined the relationship between the whole-blood expression levels of the ten genes and white blood cell counts in a cohort of acute ischemic stroke patients (n = 36) and acute stroke mimics (n = 15) recruited at emergency department admission. All ten genes displayed strong patterns of lineage-specific expression in our analysis of isolated leukocytes, and their whole-blood expression levels were correlated with white blood cell differential across the total patient population, suggesting that many of them are likely differentially expressed in whole blood during stroke as an artifact of stroke-induced shifts in leukocyte counts. Specifically, factor analysis inferred that over 50% of the collective variance in their whole-blood expression levels across the patient population was driven by underlying variance in white blood cell counts alone. However, the cumulative expression levels of the ten genes displayed a superior ability to discriminate between stroke patients and stroke mimics relative to white blood cell differential, suggesting that additional less prominent factors influence their expression levels which add to their diagnostic utility. These findings not only provide insight regarding this particular panel of ten genes, but also into the results of prior stroke transcriptomics studies performed in whole blood.

Source Citation

O’Connell GC, Treadway MB, Tennant CS, Lucke-Wold N, Chantler PD, Barr TL. Shifts in Leukocyte Counts Drive the Differential Expression of Transcriptional Stroke Biomarkers in Whole Blood. Translational Stroke Research. 2018;10(1):26-35. doi:10.1007/s12975-018-0623-1