Objectives: This study sought to determine the prevalence of autoantibodies directed against the beta-adrenoceptors in patients with primary electrical cardiac abnormalities, including atrial arrhythmias, ventricular arrhythmias and conduction disturbances, in the absence of any other cardiac abnormality.
Background: Using synthetic peptides corresponding to the predicted sequences for the second extracellular loop of the human beta 1- and beta 2-adrenoceptors as antigenic targets, autoantibodies directed against the beta-adrenoceptors were recently shown to occur in patients with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy and Chagas' heart disease.
Methods: Eighty-six patients (57 with primary electrical abnormalities, 29 with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy) and 101 healthy and cardiopathic control subjects were studied. Antibodies against the beta 1- and beta 2-peptides were detected with an enzyme immunoassay performed in blinded manner. In nine selected (seropositive) cases, the immunoglobulin G (IgG) fraction was tested for functional effects on the rate of beating of cultured neonatal rat cardiomyocytes.
Results: Antibodies recognizing the beta 1- and beta 2-peptides were found in 11 (52.3%) of 21 patients with ventricular arrhythmias (p < 0.01), 5 (35.7%) of 14 patients with conduction disturbances (p < 0.05), 3 (13.6%) of 22 patients with atrial arrhythmias (p > 0.05) and 11 (37.9%) of 29 patients with dilated cardiomyopathy (p < 0.05) compared with 15 (14.8%) of 101 control subjects. A rapid increase in the rate of beating of the cultured cardiomyocytes was induced by IgG from a selected group of patients, suggesting an agonist-like interaction with a functional epitope. This response was mediated by stimulation of both the beta 1- and beta 2-adrenoceptors in the patients with primary ventricular arrhythmias but only the beta 1-adrenoceptors in the patients with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy.
Conclusions: Primary ventricular arrhythmias and conduction disturbances, like idiopathic cardiomyopathy, show a high prevalence of antibodies interacting with functional epitopes of the beta-adrenoceptors, suggesting a common or similar abnormal immunoregulatory process.