Several arrhythmogenic mechanisms have been inferred from animal heart failure (HF) models. However, the translation of these hypotheses is difficult due to lack of functional human data. We aimed to investigate the electrophysiological substrate for arrhythmia in human end-stage non-ischemic cardiomyopathy.
Methods and Results
We optically mapped the coronary-perfused left ventricular wedge preparations from human hearts with end-stage non-ischemic cardiomyopathy (HF, n=10) and non-failing hearts (NF, n=10). Molecular remodeling was studied with immunostaining, Western blotting, and histological analyses. HF produced heterogeneous prolongation of action potential duration (APD) resulting in the decrease of transmural APD dispersion (64±12 ms vs 129±15 ms in NF, P<0.005). In the failing hearts, transmural activation was significantly slowed from the endocardium (39±3 cm/s versus 49±2 cm/s in NF, P=0.008) to the epicardium (28±3 cm/s versus 40±2 cm/s in NF, P=0.008). Conduction slowing was likely due to Cx43 downregulation, decreased colocalization of Cx43 with N-cadherin (40±2% versus 52±5% in NF, P=0.02), and an altered distribution of phosphorylated Cx43 isoforms by the upregulation of the dephosphorylated Cx43 in both the subendocardium and subepicardium layers. Failing hearts further demonstrated spatially discordant conduction velocity alternans which resulted in nonuniform propagation discontinuities and wavebreaks conditioned by strands of increased interstitial fibrosis (fibrous tissue content in HF 16.4±7.7 versus 9.9±1.4% in NF, P=0.02).
Conduction disorder resulting from the anisotropic downregulation of Cx43 expression, the reduction of Cx43 phosphorylation, and increased fibrosis is likely to be a critical component of arrhythmogenic substrate in patients with non-ischemic cardiomyopathy.
Keywords: congestive heart failure, repolarization, conduction velocity, optical mapping, cardiomyopathy