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Nat Rev Cardiol. 2011 Nov 29;9(4):223-33. doi: 10.1038/nrcardio.2011.173.

Pathophysiology of arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy.

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Department of Medical Diagnostic Sciences and Special Therapies, University of Padua Medical School, Via A. Gabelli, 61 35121 Padova, Italy.


Arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (AC) is a clinically and genetically heterogeneous disorder of heart muscle that is associated with ventricular arrhythmias and risk of sudden cardiac death, particularly in the young and athletes. Mutations in five genes that encode major components of the desmosomes, namely junction plakoglobin, desmoplakin, plakophilin-2, desmoglein-2, and desmocollin-2, have been identified in approximately half of affected probands. AC is, therefore, commonly considered a 'desmosomal' disease. No single test is sufficiently specific to establish a diagnosis of AC. The diagnostic criteria for AC were revised in 2010 to improve sensitivity, but maintain specificity. Quantitative parameters were introduced and identification of a pathogenic mutation in a first-degree relative has become a major diagnostic criterion. Caution in the interpretation of screening results is highly recommended because a 'pathogenic' mutation is difficult to define. Experimental data confirm that this genetically determined cardiomyopathy develops after birth because of progressive myocardial dystrophy, and is initiated by cardiomyocyte necrosis; cellular and animal models are necessary to gain insight into the cascade of underlying molecular events. Crosstalk from the desmosome to the nucleus, gap junctions, and ion channels is under investigation, to move from symptomatic to targeted therapy, with the ultimate aim to stop disease onset and progression.

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