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Autoimmun Rev. 2008 Jan;7(3):168-73. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2007.11.010. Epub 2007 Dec 3.

Genetic complexity of autoimmune myocarditis.

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Department of Pathology, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


Autoimmune myocarditis, a chronic stage of myocardial inflammation, occurs in a small subset of patients after acute cardiotropic viral infection and can lead to dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). This disease can be recapitulated in susceptible mouse strains by infection with coxsackievirus B3, or by immunization with cardiac myosin or cardiac troponin I. The etiologies of myocarditis are multifactorial and genetically complex. Genetic linkage between susceptibility to myocarditis/DCM and the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes has been reported in both humans and experimentally induced mouse models. However, unlike other autoimmune diseases, the non-MHC genes seem to have greater impact than MHC genes on disease susceptibility. Several myocarditis-related non-MHC loci have been identified by our laboratory and others in different models. Most of these loci overlap with other autoimmune disease susceptibility loci, suggesting common or shared genetic traits influencing general autoimmunity. For example, we have demonstrated that Eam1 and Eam2 may influence disease susceptibility via regulating T cell apoptosis at different developmental stages. Blockade of signaling through specific genes, such as CTLA4, ICOS and PD-1, can either enhance or prevent the development of experimental autoimmune myocarditis, but it remains unclear whether functional polymorphisms in these genes are involved in predisposition to disease. In humans, mutations/deletions in immunologically important genes such as CD45, and genes encoding cardiac proteins, have been reported in patients with recurrent myocarditis or DCM. Identification of genetic polymorphisms controlling autoimmune myocarditis will help us understand the mechanisms underlying autoimmune diseases in general, thereby improving potential therapies in patients.

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