The genetic basis of a number of inherited cardiovascular diseases has been elucidated over the last few years, including the long QT syndromes, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and dilated cardiomyopathy. While genetic heterogeneity has been demonstrated in most of these diseases, a pattern has emerged, specifically that genes encoding proteins with similar functions or involved in the same pathway are responsible for a particular disease or syndrome. Based on this observation we proposed the "final common pathway" hypothesis. In the case of the arrhythmogenic disorders, the long QT syndromes and Brugada syndrome, mutations have been described in a number of ion channel proteins, including cardiac potassium (KVLQT1, HERG and minK) and sodium (SCN5A) channels. Thus, using the "final common pathway" hypothesis we have proposed these diseases to be "ion channelopathies". Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy appears to be a disease of the sarcomere ("sarcomyopathy") since all the disease-causing mutations have been identified in the gene encoding many of the sarcomeric proteins, including beta-myosin heavy chain, alpha-tropomyosin, troponin I and troponin T, as well as in actin, close to the beta-myosin heavy chain binding site. The genes responsible for familial dilated cardiomyopathy have been less well characterized. For X-linked dilated cardiomyopathy, mutations in the dystrophin and G4.5 genes have been reported. In addition, mutations in actin (close to the dystrophin binding domain) and desmin, a component of the intermediate filaments, have been reported. However, the genes at a further 6 loci associated with autosomal dominant dilated cardiomyopathy (associated with conduction disease in 2 cases) remain unidentified. Due to the mutations in dystrophin, actin and desmin, we have proposed that dilated cardiomyopathy is a "cytoskeletalopathy", and we are currently investigating the involvement of these genes in patients.