Autoimmune mechanisms as the basis for human peripartum cardiomyopathy

Author(s): Ansari AA, Fett JD, Carraway RE, Maybe AE, Onlamoon N, et al.


The etiology and mechanisms of pathogenesis of human peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM) remain unknown. The incidence and prevalence of this disease is rare in some parts of the world and more common in others. The purpose of this review is to summarize our current knowledge of the factors that have been entertained which may contribute to the pathogenesis of PPCM with special emphasis on more recent data from our laboratory that provide support to the view that this disease is an autoimmune disease with multiple contributing factors and effector mechanisms. This is supported by the fact that sera from PPCM patients contain high titers of auto-antibodies against normal human cardiac tissue proteins of 37, 33, and 25 kD that was not present in the sera of patients with idiopathic cardiomyopathy (IDCM), indicating for the first time that PPCM is distinct from IDCM. In addition to the autoantibodies, the PBMC's from PPCM patients demonstrate a heightened level of fetal microchimerism, an abnormal cytokine profile, decreased levels of CD4+ CD25lo regulatory T cells, and a significant reduction in the plasma levels of progesterone, estradiol and relaxin in PPCM patients as compared with other normal pregnant non-PPCM patients. A potential role for reduced plasma levels of selenium in the pathogenesis of select PPCM patients was also noted. These findings for the first time suggest that such abnormalities may in concert lead to the initiation and perpetuation of an autoimmune process, which leads to cardiac failure and disease. Identification of the precise nature of the cardiac tissue autoantigens (currently in progress) will pave the way for the delineation of mechanism of this autoimmune disease. A working model for the pathogenesis of this disease is also described herein.

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