Endoluminal Biopsy for Molecular Profiling of Human Brain Vascular Malformations

Background and Objectives

Ras–mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling abnormalities occur in most brain arteriovenous malformations (bAVMs). No means exist to molecularly profile bAVMs without open surgery, limiting precision medicine approaches to treatment. Here, we report use of endoluminal biopsy of the vessel lumen of bAVMs to characterize gene expression and blood flow–mediated transcriptional changes in living patients.


Endoluminal biopsy and computational fluid dynamic modeling (CFD) were performed in adults with unruptured AVMs with cerebral angiography. Each patient underwent surgical resection and cell sampling from a contiguous arterial segment. Fluorescence-assisted cell sorting enriched endothelial cells, which were sequenced on an Illumina HiSeq 4000 sequencer. Gene expression was quantified with RNA sequencing (RNAseq). Differential gene expression, ontology, and correlative analyses were performed. Results were validated with quantitative reverse transcription PCR (RT-qPCR).


Endoluminal biopsy was successful in 4 patients without complication. Endoluminal biopsy yielded 269.0 ± 79.9 cells per biopsy (control 309.2 ± 86.6 cells, bAVM 228.8 ± 133.4 cells). RNAseq identified 106 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in bAVMs (false discovery rate ≤0.05). DEGs were enriched for bAVM pathogenic cascades, including Ras-MAPK signaling (p < 0.05), and confirmed with RT-qPCR and a panel predictive of MAPK/extracellular signal-regulated kinase inhibitor response. Compared to patient-matched surgically excised tissues, endoluminal biopsy detected 83.3% of genes, and genome-wide expression strongly correlated (Pearson r = 0.77). Wall shear stress measured by CFD correlated with inflammatory pathway upregulation. Comparison of pre-embolization and postembolization samples confirmed flow-mediated gene expression changes.


Endoluminal biopsy allows molecular profiling of bAVMs in living patients. Gene expression profiles are similar to those of tissues acquired with open surgery and identify potentially targetable Ras-MAPK signaling abnormalities in bAVMs. Integration with CFD allows determination of flow-mediated transcriptomic alterations. Endoluminal biopsy may help facilitate trials of precision medicine approaches to bAVMs in humans.

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