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Front Physiol. 2018 Dec 5;9:1752. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.01752. eCollection 2018.

Linking Arrhythmias and Adipocytes: Insights, Mechanisms, and Future Directions.

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Joan and Sanford I. Weill, Department of Medicine, New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, NY, United States.
Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, NY, United States.
Metabolic Health Center, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, NY, United States.
Department of Pharmacology, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, NY, United States.


Obesity and atrial fibrillation have risen to epidemic levels worldwide and may continue to grow over the next decades. Emerging evidence suggests that obesity promotes atrial and ventricular arrhythmias. This has led to trials employing various strategies with the ultimate goal of decreasing the atrial arrhythmic burden in obese patients. The effectiveness of these interventions remains to be determined. Obesity is defined by the expansion of adipose mass, making adipocytes a prime candidate to mediate the pro-arrhythmogenic effects of obesity. The molecular mechanisms linking obesity and adipocytes to increased arrhythmogenicity in both the atria and ventricles remain poorly understood. In this focused review, we highlight areas of potential molecular interplay between adipocytes and cardiomyocytes. The effects of adipocytes may be direct, local or remote. Direct effect refers to adipocyte or fatty infiltration of the atrial and ventricular myocardium itself, possibly causing increased dispersion of normal myocardial electrical signals and fibrotic substrate of adipocytes that promote reentry or adipocytes serving as a direct source of aberrant signals. Local effects may originate from nearby adipose depots, specifically epicardial adipose tissue (EAT) and pericardial adipose tissue, which may play a role in the secretion of adipokines and chemokines that can incite inflammation given the direct contact and disrupt the conduction system. Adipocytes can also have a remote effect on the myocardium arising from their systemic secretion of adipokines, cytokines and metabolites. These factors may lead to mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress, autophagy, mitophagy, autonomic dysfunction, and cardiomyocyte death to ultimately produce a pro-arrhythmogenic state. By better understanding the molecular mechanisms connecting dysfunctional adipocytes and arrhythmias, novel therapies may be developed to sever the link between obesity and arrhythmias.


adipocyte; arrhythmia; atrial fibrillation; epicardial adipose tissue; fat; intramyocardial adipose; obesity

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