Background: Left ventricular noncompaction (LVNC) is a genetically and phenotypically heterogeneous cardiomyopathy in which myocardium consists of two, distinct compacted and noncompacted layers, and prominent ventricular trabeculations and deep intertrabecular recesses are present. LVNC is associated with an increased risk of heart failure, atrial and ventricular arrhythmias and thromboembolic events. Familial forms of primary sinus bradycardia have been attributed to alterations in HCN4. There are very few reports about the association between HCN4 and LVNC. The aim of our study was to characterize the clinical phenotype of families with LVNC and sinus bradycardia caused by pathogenic variants of the HCN4 gene.
Methods: From March 2008 to July 2021, we enrolled six patients from four families with diagnosed isolated LVNC based on the clinical presentation, family history and echocardiographic and cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) evidence of LVNC. Next generation sequencing (NGS) analysis was undertaken for the evaluation of the molecular basis of the disease in each family.
Results: A total of six children (median age 11 years) were recruited and followed prospectively for the median of 12 years. All six patients were diagnosed with LVNC by echocardiography, and five participants additionally by CMR. The presence of late gadolinium enhancement (LGE) was found in three children. Sinus bradycardia and dilation of the ascending aorta occurred in five studied patients. In four patients from three families, the molecular studies demonstrated the presence of rare heterozygous HCN4 variants.
Conclusion: (1) The HCN4 molecular variants influence the presence of a complex LVNC phenotype, sinus bradycardia and dilation of the ascending aorta. (2) The HCN4 alteration may be associated with the early presentation of clinical symptoms and the severe course of the disease. (3) It is particularly important to assess myocardial fibrosis not only within the ventricles, but also in the atria in patients with LVNC and sinus bradycardia.
Keywords: HCN4 molecular variant; cardiomyopathy; children; late gadolinium enhancement; left ventricular noncompaction; sinus bradycardia.