When genetic burden reaches threshold.
Rare cardiac genetic diseases have generally been considered to be broadly Mendelian in nature, with clinical genetic testing for these conditions predicated on the detection of a primary causative rare pathogenic variant that will enable cascade genetic screening in families. However, substantial variability in penetrance and disease severity among carriers of pathogenic variants, as well as the inability to detect rare Mendelian variants in considerable proportions of patients, indicates that more complex aetiologies are likely to underlie these diseases. Recent findings have suggested genetic variants across a range of population frequencies and effect sizes may combine, along with non-genetic factors, to determine whether the threshold for expression of disease is reached and the severity of the phenotype. The availability of increasingly large genetically characterized cohorts of patients with rare cardiac diseases is enabling the discovery of common genetic variation that may underlie both variable penetrance in Mendelian diseases and the genetic aetiology of apparently non-Mendelian rare cardiac conditions. It is likely that the genetic architecture of rare cardiac diseases will vary considerably between different conditions as well as between patients with similar phenotypes, ranging from near-Mendelian disease to models more akin to common, complex disease. Uncovering the broad range of genetic factors that predispose patients to rare cardiac diseases offers the promise of improved risk prediction and more focused clinical management in patients and their families.