Epicardial fat and atrial fibrillation: the perils of atrial failure

Andrea Lorenzo Poggi, Bénédicte Gaborit, Thomas Hellmut Schindler, Luca Liberale, Fabrizio Montecucco, Federico Carbone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

Obesity is a heterogeneous condition, characterized by different phenotypes and for which the classical assessment with body mass index may underestimate the real impact on cardiovascular (CV) disease burden. An epidemiological link between obesity and atrial fibrillation (AF) has been clearly demonstrated and becomes even more tight when ectopic (i.e. epicardial) fat deposition is considered. Due to anatomical and functional features, a tight paracrine cross-talk exists between epicardial adipose tissue (EAT) and myocardium, including the left atrium (LA). Alongside-and even without-mechanical atrial stretch, the dysfunctional EAT may determine a pro-inflammatory environment in the surrounding myocardial tissue. This evidence has provided a new intriguing pathophysiological link with AF, which in turn is no longer considered a single entity but rather the final stage of atrial remodelling. This maladaptive process would indeed include structural, electric, and autonomic derangement that ultimately leads to overt disease. Here, we update how dysfunctional EAT would orchestrate LA remodelling. Maladaptive changes sustained by dysfunctional EAT are driven by a pro-inflammatory and pro-fibrotic secretome that alters the sinoatrial microenvironment. Structural (e.g. fibro-fatty infiltration) and cellular (e.g. mitochondrial uncoupling, sarcoplasmic reticulum fragmentation, and cellular protein quantity/localization) changes then determine an electrophysiological remodelling that also involves the autonomic nervous system. Finally, we summarize how EAT dysfunction may fit with the standard guidelines for AF. Lastly, we focus on the potential benefit of weight loss and different classes of CV drugs on EAT dysfunction, LA remodelling, and ultimately AF onset and recurrence.

Keywords

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Atrial remodelling
  • Cytokines
  • Epicardial adipose tissue
  • Epicardial fat
  • Inflammation
  • Obesity

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