The independent prognostic value of global epigenetic alterations: An analysis of single-cell ATAC-seq of circulating leukocytes from trauma patients followed by validation in whole blood leukocyte transcriptomes across three etiologies of critical illness

Tianmeng Chen, Julia Conroy, Xinjun Wang, Michelle Situ, Rami A. Namas, Yoram Vodovotz, Wei Chen, Harinder Singh*, Timothy R. Billiar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: While bulk and single cell transcriptomic patterns in circulating leukocytes from trauma patients have been reported, how these relate to changes in open chromatin patterns remain unstudied. Here, we investigated whether single-cell ATAC-seq would provide further resolution of transcriptomic patterns that align with patient outcomes. Methods: We performed scATAC-seq on peripheral blood mononuclear cells from four trauma patients at <4 h, 24 h, 72 h post-injury and four matched healthy controls, and extracted the features associated with the global epigenetic alterations. Three large-scale bulk transcriptomic datasets from trauma, burn and sepsis patients were used to validate the scATAC-seq derived signature, explore patient epigenetic heterogeneity (Epigenetic Groups: EG_hi vs. EG_lo), and associate patterns with clinical outcomes in critical illness. Findings: Patient subsets with gene expression patterns in blood leukocytes representative of a high global epigenetic signature (EG_hi) had worse outcomes across three etiologies of critical illness. EG_hi designation contributed independent of the known immune leukocyte transcriptomic responses to patient prognosis (Trauma: HR=0.62 [95% CI: 0.43–0.89, event set as recovery], p=0.01, n=167; Burns: HR=4.35 [95% CI: 0.816–23.2, event set as death], p=0.085, n=121; Sepsis: HR=1.60 [95% CI: 1.10–2.33, event set as death], p=0.013, n=479; Cox proportional hazards regression). Interpretation: The inclusion of gene expression patterns that associate with global epigenetic changes in circulating leukocytes improves the resolution of transcriptome-based patient classification in acute critical illnesses. Early detection of both the global epigenetic signature and the known immune transcriptomic patterns associates with the worse prognosis in trauma, burns and sepsis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103860
JournaleBioMedicine
Volume76
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Burns
  • Critical care
  • Patient classification
  • Sepsis
  • Single-cell ATAC-seq
  • Trauma

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