Deep Characterization of Circular RNAs from Human Cardiovascular Cell Models and Cardiac Tissue


For decades, cardiovascular disease (CVD) has been the leading cause of death throughout most developed countries. Several studies relate RNA splicing, and more recently also circular RNAs (circRNAs), to CVD. CircRNAs originate from linear transcripts and have been shown to exhibit tissue-specific expression profiles. Here, we present an in-depth analysis of sequence, structure, modification, and cardiac circRNA interactions. We used human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiac myocytes (hiPSC-CMs), human healthy and diseased (ischemic cardiomyopathy, dilated cardiomyopathy) cardiac tissue, and human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) to profile circRNAs. We identified shared circRNAs across all samples, as well as model-specific circRNA signatures. Based on these circRNAs, we identified 63 positionally conserved and expressed circRNAs in human, pig, and mouse hearts. Furthermore, we found that the sequence of circRNAs can deviate from the sequence derived from the genome sequence, an important factor in assessing potential functions. Integration of additional data yielded evidence for m6A-methylation of circRNAs, potentially linked to translation, as well as, circRNAs overlapping with potential Argonaute 2 binding sites, indicating potential association with the RISC complex. Moreover, we describe, for the first time in cardiac model systems, a sub class of circRNAs containing the start codon of their primary transcript (AUG circRNAs) and observe an enrichment for m6A-methylation for AUG circRNAs.