Postmortem mRNA Expression Patterns in Left Ventricular Myocardial Tissues and Their Implications for Forensic Diagnosis of Sudden Cardiac Death

  • Son, Gi Hoon (Department of Legal Medicine, College of Medicine, Korea University) ;
  • Park, Seong Hwan (Department of Legal Medicine, College of Medicine, Korea University) ;
  • Kim, Yunmi (Department of Legal Medicine, College of Medicine, Korea University) ;
  • Kim, Ji Yeon (Department of Legal Medicine, College of Medicine, Korea University) ;
  • Kim, Jin Wook (Department of Legal Medicine, College of Medicine, Korea University) ;
  • Chung, Sooyoung (Department of Anatomy and Institute of Human Genetics, College of Medicine, Korea University) ;
  • Kim, Yu-Hoon (Division of Forensic Medicine, National Forensic Service) ;
  • Kim, Hyun (Department of Anatomy and Institute of Human Genetics, College of Medicine, Korea University) ;
  • Hwang, Juck-Joon (Department of Legal Medicine, College of Medicine, Korea University) ;
  • Seo, Joong-Seok (Division of Forensic Medicine, National Forensic Service)
  • Received : 2013.11.19
  • Accepted : 2014.01.17
  • Published : 2014.03.31


Sudden cardiac death (SCD), which is primarily caused by lethal heart disorders resulting in structural and arrhythmogenic abnormalities, is one of the prevalent modes of death in most developed countries. Myocardial ischemia, mainly due to coronary artery disease, is the most common type of heart disease leading to SCD. However, postmortem diagnosis of SCD is frequently complicated by obscure histological evidence. Here, we show that certain mRNA species, namely those encoding hemoglobin A1/2 and B (Hba1/2 and Hbb, respectively) as well as pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4 (Pdk4), exhibit distinct postmortem expression patterns in the left ventricular free wall of SCD subjects when compared with their expression patterns in the corresponding tissues from control subjects with non-cardiac causes of death. Hba1/2 and Hbb mRNA expression levels were higher in ischemic SCD cases with acute myocardial infarction or ischemic heart disease without recent infarction, and even in cardiac death subjects without apparent pathological signs of heart injuries, than control subjects. By contrast, Pdk4 mRNA was expressed at lower levels in SCD subjects. In conclusion, we found that altered myocardial Hba1/2, Hbb, and Pdk4 mRNA expression patterns can be employed as molecular signatures of fatal cardiac dysfunction to forensically implicate SCD as the primary cause of death.


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