Lethal immunoglobulins: Autoantibodies and sudden cardiac death

Autoimmun Rev. 2019 Apr;18(4):415-425. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2018.12.005. Epub 2019 Feb 14.


Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is an unexpected death due to cardiac causes that occurs in a short time period (generally within 1 h of symptom onset) in a person with known or unknown cardiac disease. Patients with cardiomyopathies, myocarditis, ischemic heart disease and cardiac channelopathies are at risk of SCD. However, a certain percentage of autopsy-negative cases of SCD in the young (<35 years) remain unexplained even after a post-mortem genetic testing. Autoantibodies against cardiac proteins may be potentially involved in the pathogenesis of different heart diseases and in the occurrence of unexplained SCD. In this review we analyze clinical and animal studies that elucidate the prevalence of these autoantibodies in patients with different cardiac diseases and their pathophysiological relevance. We propose a classification of the autoantibodies associated with heart diseases and focus on their molecular and cellular effects. Anti-beta adrenergic receptor antibodies and anti-muscarinic acetylcholine receptor antibodies affect myocardial electrophysiological properties and were reported to be the independent predictors of SCD in patients with different heart diseases. Autoimmune mechanism is proposed for cardiac-related adverse reactions following human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination. The pentapeptid sharing between HPV's antigens, adrenergic receptors and muscarinic acetylcholine receptors supports this assumption. The dysregulating effects of the autoantibodies against calcium and potassium ion channels can be the basis for autoimmune phenocopies of genetic cardiac channelopathies, which are also associated with SCD.

Keywords: Anti-muscarinic acethylcholine receptor antibodies; Anti-β1 adrenergic receptor antibodies; Autoantibodies; Autoimmunity; Channelopathies; HPV vaccine; POTS; Sudden cardiac death.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / etiology
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / mortality
  • Autoantibodies / adverse effects*
  • Autoantibodies / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / complications
  • Autoimmune Diseases / diagnosis
  • Autoimmune Diseases / mortality
  • Cardiomyopathies / immunology
  • Cardiomyopathies / mortality
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / etiology*
  • Genetic Testing
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins / adverse effects*
  • Myocarditis / complications
  • Myocarditis / immunology
  • Myocarditis / mortality
  • Myocardium / immunology
  • Myocardium / pathology
  • Phenotype


  • Autoantibodies
  • Immunoglobulins