[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) A and B are two betaherpesviruses that are associated with many conditions including roseola, drug-induced hypersensitivity syndrome, limbic encephalitis, and myocarditis. HHV-6 is integrated in the germline [chromosomically integrated HHV-6 (ciHHV-6)] in ∼0.8% of the human population. To date, the prevalence, species distribution, and treatment responses of ciHHV-6 are unknown for cardiac patients.
European Journal of Heart Failure 11/2014; · 5.25 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Recent studies have detected erythrovirus genomes in the hearts of cardiomyopathy and cardiac transplant patients. Assessment of the functional status of viruses may provide clinically important information beyond detection of the viral genomes. Here, we report transcriptional activation of cardiotropic erythrovirus to be associated with strongly altered myocardial gene expression in a distinct subgroup of cardiomyopathy patients. Endomyocardial biopsies (EMBs) from 415 consecutive cardiac erythrovirus (B19V)-positive patients with clinically suspected cardiomyopathy were screened for virus-encoded VP1/VP2 mRNA indicating transcriptional activation of the virus, and correlated with cardiac host gene expression patterns in transcriptionally active versus latent infections, and in virus-free control hearts. Transcriptional activity was detected in baseline biopsies of only 66/415 patients (15.9 %) harbouring erythrovirus. At the molecular level, significant differences between cardiac B19V-positive patients with transcriptionally active versus latent virus were revealed by expression profiling of EMBs. Importantly, latent B19V infection was indistinguishable from controls. Genes involved encode proteins of antiviral immune response, B19V receptor complex, and mitochondrial energy metabolism. Thus, functional mapping of erythrovirus allows definition of a subgroup of B19V-infected cardiomyopathy patients characterized by virus-encoded VP1/VP2 transcripts and anomalous host myocardial transcriptomes. Cardiac B19V reactivation from latency, as reported here for the first time, is a key factor required for erythrovirus to induce altered cardiac gene expression in a subgroup of cardiomyopathy patients. Virus genome detection is insufficient to assess pathogenic potential, but additional transcriptional mapping should be incorporated into future pathogenetic and therapeutic studies both in cardiology and transplantation medicine.
Archiv für Kreislaufforschung 09/2013; 108(5):372. · 7.35 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Parvovirus B19 (PVB19) is a member of the human erythrovirus family detected frequently in endomyocardial biopsies from patients with dilated cardiomyopathy. Human erythroviruses cluster into three genotypes 1-3 which share a high degree of homology between major structural proteins and may cause indistinguishable infections clinically and serologically. In human cardiac tissue erythrovirus genotypes other than PVB19 have not yet been reported. Three hundred seventeen consecutive patients with symptomatic dilated cardiomyopathy (median left ventricular ejection fraction: 28.6%, range 5-45%) who underwent endomyocardial biopsy for the elucidation of the etiology, were analyzed using a new consensus PCR assay designed for the detection of the three erythrovirus genotype sequences. Endomyocardial biopsies of 151 (47.6%) patients were erythrovirus-positive. Genotype 1 specific sequences were detected in 43/151 (28.5%) of positive biopsy samples, whereas genotype 2-specific sequences so far considered rare in human disease and not yet been described in human heart tissue was identified in 108/151 (71.5%) of virus-positive endomyocardial biopsies with a preference in patients above 50 years of age. In spite of younger age, systolic left ventricular dysfunction of genotype 1-positive patients was significantly reduced as compared to genotype 2-positive patients (24.4+/-10.4% vs. 31.0+/-9.5%, P=0.0001) at the initial presentation. The data show that two genetically distinct erythrovirus variants with a different age distribution are detectable in endomyocardial biopsies of patients with dilated cardiomyopathy. The erythrovirus genotype 2, not described previously in human heart tissue, is highly prevalent in the heart but the less prevalent genotype 1 is associated with more severe disturbed cardiac function.
Journal of Medical Virology 08/2008; 80(7):1243-51. · 2.37 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cardiotropic viral infections have been suspected as one possible cause of myocarditis and dilated cardiomyopathy. Although adverse outcomes in dilated cardiomyopathy patients have been documented, the natural course of heart diseases caused by cardiotropic viruses is unknown.
Consecutive patients (n=172) with biopsy-proven viral infection in endomyocardial biopsies (EMBs) were followed up by reanalysis of EMBs and hemodynamic measurements after a median period of 6.8 months (range, 5.4 to 11.9). Nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and reverse transcription-PCR were performed to analyze the genomic sequences. Myocardial inflammation was assessed by histology and immunohistology. At baseline, 32.6% of EMBs in the study group contained enteroviral (EV) RNA, 8.1% adenovirus (ADV) DNA, 36.6% parvovirus B19 (PVB19) DNA, and 10.5% human herpesvirus type 6 (HHV6) DNA. In 12.2% of the samples, dual infection with PVB19 and HHV6 was present. Follow-up analysis of EMBs by PCR documented spontaneous clearance of viral genomes in 36.2% (55/151) of all patients with single infections. Virus-specific clearance rates were 50% for EV, 35.7% for ADV, 22.2% for PVB19, and 44.4% for HHV6. In patients with dual infection with PVB19+ and HHV6(+)-, HHV6 was cleared in 42.8% (9/21), whereas PVB19 persisted in all 21 patients. Clearance of viral genomes was associated with a significant improvement in left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF), improving from 50.2+/-19.1% to 58.1+/-15.9% (P<0.001). In contrast, LV function decreased in patients with persisting viral genomes (LVEF, 54.3+/-16.1% versus 51.4+/-16.1%, P<0.01).
In this first biopsy-based analysis of the course of viral heart disease, we show that EV, ADV, PVB19, and HHV6 persistence detected in the myocardium of patients with LV dysfunction was associated with a progressive impairment of LVEF, whereas spontaneous viral elimination was associated with a significant improvement in LV function.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Viral cardiomyopathy resulting from myocardial virus persistence can be associated with inflammatory immune responses that involve the myocardium and coronary blood vessels. The aim of this study was to investigate the differential impact of myocardial virus persistence and inflammation on endothelial function of the coronary microcirculation.
In 71 patients with nonischemic cardiomyopathy, myocardial biopsies were examined for virus persistence (by polymerase chain reaction) and inflammation (by immunohistology). Endothelial function of the coronary microcirculation was examined during heart catheterization by measuring diameter (by quantitative coronary angiography) and velocity changes (by intracoronary Doppler) of the left anterior descending artery in response to acetylcholine. Coronary blood flow (CBF) was calculated. Endothelium-independent vasoreactivity to adenosine was assessed. Mean age of the patients (37 men, 34 women) was 43+/-13 years; mean ejection fraction was 64+/-11%. In 43 patients, adenovirus, enterovirus, parvovirus, or HHV-6 was detected; 28 had no virus. Endothelial function of the coronary microcirculation was significantly impaired in patients with myocardial virus persistence (V) compared with patients without virus (Co) (DeltaCBF-V, 22+/-86%; DeltaCBF-Co, 110+/-113%; P=0.001), which was confirmed in 51 patients with myocardial inflammation (MC) (32 with virus, 19 with no virus) (DeltaCBF-MC-V, 12+/-89%; DeltaCBF-MC-Co, 81+/-109%; P=0.034) and in 20 patients with normal immunohistology of the myocardial biopsies (Co) (11 with virus, 9 with no virus) (DeltaCBF-Co-V, 51+/-72%; DeltaCBF-Co-Co, 175+/-97%; P=0.006). Endothelial function of the coronary microcirculation was also significantly impaired in patients with myocardial inflammation/endothelial activation compared with patients without inflammatory immune response. Endothelium-independent vasodilation was not influenced significantly.
Myocardial virus persistence and myocardial inflammation/endothelial activation are associated with endothelial dysfunction of the coronary microcirculation. Endothelial dysfunction in patients with myocardial virus persistence can occur independently of myocardial inflammation/endothelial activation but is more pronounced in patients with concurrent inflammation.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: For a long time, enteroviruses have been considered to be the most common cause of acute viral myocarditis (MC), with possible transition from MC to dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Recent investigations have shown, however, that other viruses are also frequently encountered in MC patients, suggesting that persistence of various virus species may play a pathogenic role in the transition from MC to DCM. The purpose of this study was to screen endomyocardial biopsies (EMBs) from patients with "idiopathic" DCM for the presence of viral genomes by using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to assess the frequency of cardiac viral infections that may be involved in the pathogenesis of the disease.
EMBs were obtained for PCR analysis from 245 consecutive patients (median left ventricular ejection fraction, 35.0%; range, 9% to 59%). PCR and reverse transcription-PCR were performed to detect the genomic sequences of enterovirus (EV), adenovirus (ADV), human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), herpes simplex virus, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6), parvovirus B19 (PVB19), and influenza A and B viruses. Myocardial inflammation was assessed by histological and immunohistological analyses. Viral genomes could be amplified from EMBs of 165 (67.4%) of the 245 DCM patients: EV=23 (9.4%), ADV=4 (1.6%), PVB19=126 (51.4%), HHV-6=53 (21.6%), EBV=5 (2.0%), HCMV=2 (0.8%), including n=45 cases (27.3%) with multiple infections. Active or borderline myocarditis according to the Dallas classification did not exist in any case. Lymphocyte and macrophage infiltrates were not significantly different in virus-positive versus virus-negative patients.
Viral genomes were frequently detected in EMBs of patients with systolic left ventricular dysfunction. Our data suggest that myocardial persistence of various viruses, often presenting as multiple infections, may play a role in the pathogenesis of DCM far more frequently than suspected so far.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Myocardial virus persistence is frequently observed in patients with cardiomyopathy. Endothelial dysfunction in patients with cardiomyopathy is associated with inflammatory immunoresponses in myocardial biopsies. The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of myocardial virus persistence on endothelial function.
In 124 patients with suspected cardiomyopathy, myocardial biopsies were examined for virus persistence (by polymerase chain reaction) and inflammation (by immunohistology). Endothelial function of the radial artery was examined by high-resolution ultrasound. Diameter changes in response to reactive hyperemia (flow-mediated dilation [FMD]) compared with glycerol trinitrate (GTN-MD) were measured. Mean age of the patients (55 men, 69 women) was 45+/-13 years; ejection fraction was 57+/-17%. In 73 patients, adenovirus, enterovirus, parvovirus, or HHV6 virus (V) was detected; in 51, no virus was detected. FMD was significantly impaired in patients with myocardial virus persistence compared with control subjects (Co): FMD-V, 3.38+/-2.67%; FMD-Co, 7.34+/-3.44 (P<0.001). In 86 patients, myocardial inflammation was confirmed (Inf). Of those, 57 had virus, and 29 did not. FMD was significantly impaired in patients with virus compared with controls: FMD-Inf-V, 3.24+/-2.66%; FMD-Inf-Co, 6.07+/-3.00 (P<0.001). In 38 patients, immunohistology of the myocardial biopsies was normal (Co); of those, 16 had virus, and 22 did not. FMD was impaired in patients with virus compared with control subjects: FMD-Co-V, 3.88+/-2.72%; FMD-Co-Co, 9.00+/-3.32% (P<0.001). Endothelium-independent vasodilation (GTN-MD) was not significantly affected.
Myocardial virus persistence is associated with endothelial dysfunction. Endothelial dysfunction in patients with myocardial virus persistence can occur independently of endothelial activation or myocardial inflammation but is more pronounced in patients with concurrent inflammation.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Enteroviruses (EVs) and adenoviruses (ADVs) have been considered common causes of myocarditis and dilated cardiomyopathy. In the present study, we report on the association of parvovirus B19 (PVB19) genomes in the clinical setting of acute myocarditis.
This study included 24 consecutive patients admitted to our hospital within 24 hours after onset of chest pain. Acute myocardial infarction had been excluded in all patients by coronary angiography. Endomyocardial biopsies were analyzed by nested polymerase chain reaction/reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction for EV, ADV, PVB19, human cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, Chlamydia pneumoniae, influenza virus A and B, and Borrelia burgdorferi genomes, respectively, followed by direct sequencing of the amplification products. All patients presented with acute onset of angina pectoris and ST-segment elevations or T-wave inversion mimicking acute myocardial infarction. Mean baseline peak creatinine kinase and creatine kinase-isoenzyme fraction were 342+/-241 U/L and 32+/-20 U/L, respectively. Mean troponin T was increased to 7.5+/-15.0 ng/mL and C-reactive protein to 91+/-98 mg/mL. Eighteen patients had global or regional wall motion abnormalities (ejection fraction 62.5+/-15.5%). Histological analysis excluded the presence of active or borderline myocarditis in all but one patient. PVB19, EV, and ADV genomes were detected in the myocardium of 12, 3, and 2 patients, respectively (71%). Follow-up biopsies of virus-positive patients (11 of 17) demonstrated persistence of PVB19 genomes in 6 of 6 patients, EV genomes in 2 of 3 patients, and ADV genomes in 1 of 2 patients, respectively.
Virus genomes can be demonstrated in 71% of patients with normal coronary anatomy, clinically mimicking acute myocardial infarction. In addition to EVs and ADVs, PVB19 was the most frequent pathogen.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Viral infections are important causes of myocarditis and may induce cardiac dysfunction and finally lead to dilated cardiomyopathy. We investigated whether interferon (IFN)-beta therapy is safe and may achieve virus clearance and prevent deterioration of left ventricular (LV) function in patients with myocardial virus persistence.
In this phase II study, 22 consecutive patients with persistence of LV dysfunction (history of symptoms, 44+/-27 months) and polymerase chain reaction-proven enteroviral or adenoviral genomes were treated with 18x10(6) IU/week IFN-beta (Beneferon) subcutaneously for 24 weeks. Histological and immunohistological analysis of endomyocardial biopsies was used to characterize myocardial inflammation. LV diameters and ejection fraction were assessed by echocardiography and angiography, respectively. During the treatment period, IFN-beta was well tolerated by all patients. No patient deteriorated. Clearance of viral genomes was observed in 22 of 22 of patients after antiviral therapy. Virus clearance was paralleled by a significant decrease of LV end diastolic and end systolic diameters, decreasing from 59.7+/-11.1 to 56.5+/-10.0 mm (P<0.001) and 43.2+/-13.6 to 39.4+/-12.1 mm (P<0.001), respectively. LV ejection fraction increased from 44.6+/-15.5% to 53.1+/-16.8% (P<0.001).
A 6 months, IFN-beta treatment was safe in patients with myocardial enteroviral or adenoviral persistence and LV dysfunction and resulted in elimination of viral genomes (22 of 22 patients) and improved LV function (15 of 22 patients).
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to investigate whether myocardial inflammation (MC) and endothelial activation are associated with clinically detectable endothelial dysfunction.
In patients with MC, immunohistologic evaluation of myocardial biopsies demonstrates a cellular infiltrate of lymphocytes in the myocardium and endothelial activation, as indicated by enhanced expression of human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-1, HLA-DR and intercellular adhesion molecule (ICAM)-1. This chronic inflammatory process may be associated with endothelial dysfunction.
In 65 patients with suspected MC, endothelial function of the radial artery was noninvasively assessed. By means of high-resolution ultrasound, diameter changes in response to reactive hyperemia (endothelium-dependent), as compared with glyceroltrinitrate (endothelium-independent), were analyzed. In the myocardial biopsies, MC was confirmed by immunohistology in 53 patients; 12 patients with normal myocardial biopsies served as controls. Endothelial expression of HLA-1, HLA-DR and ICAM-1 was semiquantitatively evaluated by immunohistology. To minimize other factors influencing endothelial function, patients with coronary artery disease, diabetes, severely impaired left ventricular function or more than one arteriosclerotic risk factor were excluded from this study.
Endothelial function, as determined by flow-mediated vasodilation (FMD), in patients with MC was impaired (FMD(MC) 4.28%), as compared with controls (FMD(Co) 10.10%). The severity of endothelial dysfunction in patients with MC correlated significantly with the extent of endothelial expression of HLA-1, HLA-DR and ICAM-1 in myocardial biopsies. Endothelium-independent vasodilation was not affected by MC or endothelial activation.
Myocardial inflammation is associated with endothelial dysfunction of peripheral arteries. The severity of endothelial dysfunction correlates with the extent of endothelial activation.
Journal of the American College of Cardiology 09/2002; 40(3):515-20. · 14.09 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Effector functions of an aberrant immune response have been implicated in the pathogenesis of idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). The immunologic determinants of myocardial dysfunction, however, remain poorly understood. This study sought to determine the relation of different immunologic responses to hemodynamic dysfunction in DCM.
Immunoglobulin (Ig) G class/subclass response ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) against cardiac myosin heavy chain, histologic characteristics (DALLAS criteria), immunohistochemistry, plasma interleukin-4 and plasma interferon gamma (IFN-gamma) were determined in patients (n = 76) with clinically suspected myocarditis or DCM. Patients were prospectively evaluated, both clinically and hemodynamically, on admission (baseline) and at 6-month follow-up.
Indices of hemodynamic dysfunction (by cardiac catheterization and transthoracic echocardiography) correlated significantly with an Ig subclass response. IgG3 levels correlated with left ventricular ejection fraction (P =.02), pulmonary capillary wedge pressure (P <.0001), left ventricular end-systolic volume index (P =.002), left ventricular end-diastolic volume index (P =.033), left ventricular end-diastolic pressure (P =.04), right ventricular end-diastolic pressure (P =.039), and left ventricular end-systolic dimension and left ventricular end-diastolic dimension (P <.05). Patients positive for IgG3 (predominantly male, P =.01) had depressed left ventricular ejection fraction (< or =45%, relative risk 3.0, 95% CI 1.5-5.7, P =.005) at baseline and 6 months. Mitral-septal separation at follow-up improved in patients negative for IgG3 (P =.018), and the number of patients on conventional therapy in this group declined at 6-month follow-up (P <.05). Lymphocyte counts/high-power field; CD2, CD3, CD4, and CD8 (independent of IgG class/subclass response and left ventricular dysfunction) were significantly higher in patients positive for IFN-gamma (25%). A positive IFN-gamma response was higher in patients positive for IgG3. These patients, positive for IgG3 and IFN-gamma (10%), had significantly shorter duration of clinical symptoms: 0.17 years (0.12-2.36 y) versus 1.01 years (0.49-5.35 y, P =.04).
IgG3 reactivity correlated with depressed myocardial dysfunction. This may render this subclass Ig a surrogate target for therapeutic intervention in DCM. With IFN-gamma, IgG3 may reflect a more aggressive disease.
American heart journal 06/2002; 143(6):1076-84. · 4.65 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is pathogenically linked to inflammatory cardiomyopathy (InfCM), which is characterized by intramyocardial infiltration. The transendothelial migration of immunocompetent cells is mediated by cell adhesion molecules (CAMs).
We investigated the expression pattern of CAMs (immunoglobulin superfamily, 32 selectins, and beta1- and beta2-integrins) in endomyocardial biopsies from DCM patients (n=152; left ventricular ejection fraction <40%) using immunohistochemistry. Whereas few specimens obtained at autopsy (controls; n=14) presented enhanced expression regarding single endothelial CAMs (human leukocyte antigen [HLA] class I, 7%; HLA-DR, 14%; CD29, 14%), none demonstrated concurrent abundance of >3 CAMs (inflammatory endothelial activation), nor did any control tissue prove positive for InfCM (>7.0 CD3+ lymphocytes per 1 mm2). In comparison, 64% (n=97) of the DCM biopsies were evaluated positive for InfCM and 67% (n=101) for inflammatory endothelial activation, respectively. Whereas expression of HLA class I, HLA-DR, intercellular cell adhesion molecule-1, and CD29 was distributed homogeneously within a patient's serial sections, immunoreactivity of vascular cell adhesion molecule-1, lymphocyte function antigen-3, and the selectins was accentuated on single vascular endothelia. Sixty-six percent of the DCM biopsies presented CD29 abundance also within the extracellular matrix and the sarcolemma. CD62P and CD62E were present in 16% and 40% of the DCM patients, respectively. Endothelial CAM representatives correlated with one another (P<0.05), except for CD62P with HLA. Endothelial CAM expression correlated with intramyocardial infiltrates phenotyped by the corresponding counterreceptors.
Inflammatory endothelial activation is present in 67% of DCM patients. Because CAM expression correlates with the immunohistological diagnosis of InfCM and counterreceptor-bearing intramyocardial infiltrates, evaluation of endothelial CAMs might be of diagnostic significance in InfCM.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To determine whether immunohistochemical analysis of cardiac biopsies from patients presenting clinically as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) show a chronic inflammatory process.
Comparative case control study.
Tertiary referral centre.
Biopsies from 170 patients with DCM and 85 control patients with other cardiac diseases.
Nine patients had sufficient interstitial inflammatory cells to be called borderline myocarditis on conventional histology, leaving 161 patients with DCM. In 78 patients with DCM (48%) there were T lymphocytes in the myocardium. In 48 (62%) of these 78 T lymphocyte densities were in the range 2-14 per high power field (HPF), equivalent to 7-50 per mm2 of tissue. In 43 (89%) interstitial and endothelial immune activation was demonstrated by MHC expression. In 30 patients with T cell counts in the range 1.5-2.0 per HPF, 80% also showed endothelial activation. Lymphocyte density correlated with increased expression of MHC class I and II antigens and the adhesion molecules ICAM, VCAM, ELAM, LFA-3, and GMP140. In all control biopsies the T lymphocyte density was less than 1.0 per HPF (less than 2-5 per mm2 of tissue).
Nearly half the patients with DCM had increased T lymphocyte density and immune activation of endothelial and interstitial cells in their cardiac biopsies. A chronic autoimmune process is still active within the myocardium in a significant percentage of patients with DCM. Immunohistochemical analysis of cardiac biopsies will enhance the sensitivity of cardiac biopsy and is essential for the diagnosis of myocarditis.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Dilated cardiomyopathy continues to be an etiologically unknown heart muscle disease. Recent clinical and experimental data have suggested a causal relation to viral myocarditis. The clinical diagnosis, however, is unspecific, and diagnostic yield of the histologic evaluation of endomyocardial biopsies by light microscopy according to the Dallas classification is poor. The authors analyzed the biopsy specimens of 120 patients with suspected dilated cardiomyopathy by immunohistologic methods to obtain a more sensitive and specific identification and quantification of infiltrating lymphocytes, indicating an activated immunologic process within the myocardium. Increased lymphocytic infiltrates and inflammatory endothelial activation were demonstrated in patients with clinically suspected dilated cardiomyopathy. These findings are associated with the often seen progression of ventricular dysfunction. Further studies are necessary to prove whether these immunohistologically positive patients will improve under immunosuppressive therapy.
Journal of Cardiac Failure 11/1994; 1(1):13-25. · 3.32 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Experimental and clinical data suggest a relationship between myocarditis and dilated cardiomyopathy. One postulated mechanism is a viral infection triggering a host response with autoimmune features directed against the heart, resulting in an initial myocarditis which is followed by dilated cardiomyopathy. Until now, the importance of myocarditis as an aetiological factor in the pathogenesis of isiopathic cardiomyopathy has been unknown. This investigation was undertaken to determine immunohistologically the frequency of lymphocytic infiltrations in endomyocardial biopsies of patients with clinically suspected dilated cardiomyopathy. T-lymphocytic subsets and other immunological features were also analysed to explore possible relationships between immunohistologically documented myocarditis and dilated cardiomyopathy.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Experimental and clinical data suggest a relationship between myocarditis and dilated cardiomyopathy. One postulated pathomechanism is a viral infection triggering a host response with autoimmune features directed against the heart, resulting in an initial myocarditis which is followed by a dilated cardiomyopathy. Until now, the importance of an undetected myocarditis as an etiological factor in the pathogenesis of idiopathic cardiomyopathy is unknown. This investigation was undertaken to determine the frequency of lymphocytic infiltrations in endomyocardial biopsies of patients with dilated cardiomyopathy by immunohistological methods and to analyze T lymphocytic subsets and other immunological features in order to search for possible relationships between immunohistological-documented myocarditis and dilated cardiomyopathy. In our study, 48 of 130 biopsies (37%) from patients with clinically proven dilated cardiomyopathy contained lymphocytic infiltrates when stained by the immunoperoxidase method with lymphocyte surface markers (Table 1). 23% (n = 30) of these biopsies contained more than 2.0 (range: 2.0 to 13.8) T lymphocytes per high power light microscopy field (x 400), in 14% (n = 18) 1.5 to 2.0 cells/HPH were seen (Table 2). 82 biopsies (63%) with less than 0.8 cells/HPF were regarded as negative (dilated cardiomyopathy). By histological analysis, only seven cases (5%) were classified as borderline myocarditis by conventional histological evaluation according to the Dallas classification. In the other patients, our results were consistent with the clinical diagnosis of dilated cardiomyopathy (Table 1). 71% of biopsies with lymphocytic infiltrates contained activated T cells when analysed with activation markers in serial sections (Table 2). Activated macrophages were seen in 52% of biopsies with T cell infiltrations, but only in 31% of tissues containing normal numbers of lymphocytes (Table 2). In biopsy specimens with lymphocytic infiltrates HLA-class I and II antigen expression was increased. An enhanced HLA-DR antigen staining was seen in 80% on interstitial cells and vascular endothelium while HLA class I was found at an increased level in 67% (Table 3). In negative biopsies, an enhanced class I staining was seen in only 14%, class II in 30%. Because of the specific identification of lymphocytes by immunocytochemical methods, lymphocytic infiltrates are easily detected, even if the infiltrate is sparse or focal (Figure 1). The considerable interobserver variability in the quantitation of lymphocyte counts, which is a main problem in hematoxylin and eosin stained sections is negligible when lymphocyte quantitation is performed by immunoperoxidase staining. Thus, our data indicate that in about 37% of patients with clinical suspected idiopathic cardiomyopathy an ongoing or reactivated myocarditic process is involved.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)