OBJECTIVES: To compare HLA distribution in familial and non-familial dilated cardiomyopathy, because a serum marker that could identify families at risk of developing dilated cardiomyopathy should be of use in screening for the disease. PATIENTS: 100 patients with dilated cardiomyopathy. METHODS: 200 first degree relatives from 56 of the proband families were screened for dilated cardiomyopathy by echocardiography. The HLA profile of the patients with dilated cardiomyopathy, as well as of the familial and non-familial subgroups, was compared with that of 9000 normal controls. RESULTS: The familial prevalence of dilated cardiomyopathy in this patient group was "definite" in 14 of 56 (25%) and "possible" in 25 of 56 (45%). The HLA-DR4 frequency in the 100 patients with dilated cardiomyopathy was similar to that in the 9000 controls (39% v 32%). However, the DR4 subtype was significantly more common in the 25 probands with a familial tendency to dilated cardiomyopathy than in the 31 probands with non-familial dilated cardiomyopathy (68% v 32%; P < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: The present finding supports an HLA linked predisposition to familial dilated cardiomyopathy. The HLA type DR4 was significantly more common in familial than in non-familial cases. The DR4 halotype was associated with two thirds of the families at risk for dilated cardiomyopathy.
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