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Circ Heart Fail. 2019 Jan;12(1):e005622. doi: 10.1161/CIRCHEARTFAILURE.118.005622.

Endothelial Leptin Receptor Deletion Promotes Cardiac Autophagy and Angiogenesis Following Pressure Overload by Suppressing Akt/mTOR Signaling.

Author information

Center of Cardiology, Cardiology I (R.G., A.H., M.B., P.W., T.M., K.S.), University Medical Center, Mainz, Germany.
Institute of Toxicology (J.F.), University Medical Center, Mainz, Germany.
Institute of Pathology (B.K.S.), University Medical Center, Mainz, Germany.
Center for Thrombosis and Hemostasis (P.W., S.K.), University Medical Center, Mainz, Germany.
Department of Cardiology and Pneumology, Heart Center, University Medical Center Göttingen, Germany (G.H., K.S.).



Cardiac remodeling is modulated by overnutrition or starvation. The adipokine leptin mediates energy balance between adipose tissue and brain. Leptin and its receptors are expressed in the heart.


To examine the importance of endothelial leptin signaling in cardiac hypertrophy, transverse aortic constriction was used in mice with inducible endothelium-specific deletion of leptin receptors (End.LepR-KO) or littermate controls (End.LepR-WT). End.LepR-KO was associated with improved left ventricular function (fractional shortening, 28.4% versus 18.8%; P=0.0114), reduced left ventricular dilation (end-systolic inner left ventricular diameter, 3.59 versus 4.08 mm; P=0.0188) and lower heart weight (133 versus 173 mg; P<0.0001) 20 weeks after transverse aortic constriction. Histology and quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis confirmed reduced cardiomyocyte hypertrophy. STAT3 (signal transducer and activator of transcription) activation was reduced, and Akt (protein kinase B) and mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) phosphorylation after transverse aortic constriction were blunted in End.LepR-KO hearts. Elevated LC3 (microtubule associated protein 1 light chain 3)-I/-II conversion ( P=0.0041) and increased (LC3II-positive) endothelial cells ( P=0.0042) in banded hearts of End.LepR-KO mice suggested improved cardiac angiogenesis because of activated autophagy. Microscopy confirmed autophagosome accumulation after genetic or small interfering RNA-mediated LepR downregulation. Enhanced sprouting angiogenesis was observed in endothelial cells ( P<0.0001) and aortic rings ( P=0.0060) from End.LepR-KO mice, and murine and human endothelial sprouting angiogenesis was reduced after mTOR inhibition using rapamycin or autophagy inhibition using 3-methyladenine. Banded End.LepR-KO mouse hearts exhibited less apoptosis ( P=0.0218), inflammation ( P=0.0251), and fibrosis ( P=0.0256). Reduced endothelial autophagy was also observed in myocardial biopsies of heart failure patients with cardiac fibrosis.


Our findings suggest that endothelial leptin signaling contributes to cardiac fibrosis and functional deterioration by suppressing endothelial autophagy and promoting endothelial dysfunction in a chronic pressure overload model.


autophagy; endothelial cells; heart failure; hypertrophy; leptin

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