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Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2013 Mar;304(6):C508-18. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00248.2012. Epub 2013 Jan 9.

Exendin-4 attenuates high glucose-induced cardiomyocyte apoptosis via inhibition of endoplasmic reticulum stress and activation of SERCA2a.

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Metabolic Signaling and Disease Program, Diabetes and Obesity Research Center, Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute at Lake Nona, 6400 Sanger Rd., Orlando, FL 32837, USA.


Hyperglycemia-induced cardiomyocyte apoptosis contributes to diabetic cardiomyopathy. Glucagon-like peptide-1 (Glp1) receptor (Glp1r) agonists improve cardiac function and survival in response to ischemia-reperfusion and myocardial infarction. The present studies assessed whether Glp1r activation exerts direct cardioprotective effects in response to hyperglycemia. Treatment with the Glp1r agonist Exendin-4 attenuated apoptosis in neonatal rat ventricular cardiomyocytes cultured in high (33 mM) glucose. This protective effect was mimicked by the cAMP inducer forskolin. The Exendin-4 protective effect was blocked by the Glp1r antagonist Exendin(9-39) or the PKA antagonist H-89. Exendin-4 also protected cardiomyocytes from hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)-induced cell death. Cardiomyocyte protection by Exendin-4 was not due to reduced reactive oxygen species levels. Instead, Exendin-4 treatment reduced endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, demonstrated by decreased expression of glucose-regulated protein-78 (GRP78) and CCAT/enhancer-binding homologous protein (CHOP). Reduced ER stress was not due to activation of the unfolded protein response, indicating that Exendin-4 directly prevents ER stress. Exendin-4 treatment selectively protected cardiomyocytes from thapsigargin- but not tunicamycin-induced death. This suggests that Exendin-4 attenuates thapsigargin-mediated inhibition of the sarco/endoplasmic reticulum Ca(2+) ATPase-2a (SERCA2a). High glucose attenuates SERCA2a function by reducing SERCA2a mRNA and protein levels, but Exendin-4 treatment prevented this reduction. Exendin-4 treatment also enhanced phosphorylation of the SERCA2a regulator phospholamban (PLN), which would be expected to stimulate SERCA2a activity. In sum, Glp1r activation attenuates high glucose-induced cardiomyocyte apoptosis in association with decreased ER stress and markers of enhanced SERCA2a activity. These findings identify a novel mechanism whereby Glp1-based therapies could be used as treatments for diabetic cardiomyopathy.

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