Different circulating biomarkers in women and men with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation: results from the AF-RISK and RACE V study

This study was based on the clinical differences found between women and men in patients with atrial fibrillation, the most common heart arrhythmia. This may lead to the notion that even though women and men suffer from the same disease, the causes for atrial fibrillation may come from different paths. These findings support the pursue of personalised approaches in research, taking sex differences into account.

Methods and results

Sex differences in 92 blood biomarkers were measured in 364 patients included in our discovery cohort, the identification of a risk profile to guide atrial fibrillation therapy (AF-RISK) study, assessed by multivariable logistic regression and enrichment pathway analysis. Findings were subsequently confirmed in 213 patients included in our validation cohort, the Reappraisal of Atrial Fibrillation: Interaction between HyperCoagulability, Electrical remodelling, and Vascular Destabilisation in the Progression of AF (RACE V) study. In the discovery cohort, mean age was 59 ± 12 years, 41% were women. CHA2DS2-VASc-score was 1.6 ± 1.4. A total of 46% had hypertension, 10% diabetes, and 50% had heart failure, predominantly with preserved ejection fraction (47%). In women, activated leucocyte cell adhesion molecule (ALCAM) and fatty acid binding protein-4 (FABP-4) were higher. In men, matrix metalloproteinase-3 (MMP-3), C-C motif chemokine-16 (CCL-16), and myoglobin were higher. In the validation cohort, four out of five biomarkers could be confirmed: levels of ALCAM (P = 1.73 × 10–4) and FABP-4 (P = 2.46 × 10–7) and adhesion biological pathways [false discovery rate (FDR) = 1.23 × 10–8] were higher in women. In men, levels of MMP-3 (P = 4.31 × 10–8) and myoglobin (P = 2.10 × 10–4) and markers for extracellular matrix degradation biological pathways (FDR = 3.59 × 10–9) were higher.


In women with paroxysmal AF, inflammatory biomarkers were more often higher, while in men with paroxysmal AF, biomarkers for vascular remodelling were higher. Our data support the clinical notion that pathophysiological mechanisms in women and men with AF may differ.

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