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1.  Partial Deletion of eNOS Gene Causes Hyperinsulinemic State, Unbalance of Cardiac Insulin Signaling Pathways and Coronary Dysfunction Independently of High Fat Diet 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104156.
Abnormalities in eNOS gene, possibly interacting with high fat diet (HFD), affect peripheral vascular function and glucose metabolism. The relative role of eNOS gene, HFD and metabolic derangement on coronary function has not been fully elucidated. We test whether eNOS gene deficiency per se or in association with HFD modulates coronary function through mechanisms involving molecular pathways related to insulin signaling. Wild type (WT), eNOS−/− and eNOS+/− mice were studied. WT and eNOS+/− mice were fed with either standard or HF diet for 16 weeks and compared with standard diet fed eNOS−/−. Glucose and insulin tolerance tests were performed during the last week of diet. Coronary resistance (CR) was measured at baseline and during infusions of acetylcholine (Ach) or sodium-nitroprusside (SNP) to evaluate endothelium-dependent or independent vasodilation, in the Langendorff isolated hearts. Cardiac expression of Akt and ERK genes as evaluation of two major insulin-regulated signaling pathways involved in the control of vascular tone were assessed by western blot. HFD-fed mice developed an overt diabetic state. Conversely, chow-fed genetically modified mice (in particular eNOS−/−) showed a metabolic pattern characterized by normoglycemia and hyperinsulinemia with a limited degree of insulin resistance. CR was significantly higher in animals with eNOS gene deletions than in WT, independently of diet. Percent decrease in CR, during Ach infusion, was significantly lower in both eNOS−/− and eNOS+/− mice than in WT, independently of diet. SNP reduced CR in all groups except eNOS−/−. The cardiac ERK1-2/Akt ratio, increased in animals with eNOS gene deletions compared with WT, independently of diet. These results suggest that the eNOS genetic deficiency, associated or not with HFD, has a relevant effect on coronary vascular function, possibly mediated by increase in blood insulin levels and unbalance in insulin-dependent signaling in coronary vessels, consistent with a shift towards a vasoconstrictive pattern.
PMCID: PMC4122412  PMID: 25093405
2.  Up-regulation of heme oxygenase-1 after infarct initiation reduces mortality, infarct size and left ventricular remodeling: experimental evidence and proof of concept 
Up-regulation of HO-1 by genetic manipulation or pharmacological pre-treatment has been reported to provide benefits in several animal models of myocardial infarction (MI). However, its efficacy following MI initiation (as in clinical reality) remains to be tested. Therefore, this study investigated whether HO-1 over-expression, by cobalt protoporphyrin (CoPP) administered after LAD ligation, is still able to improve functional and structural changes in left ventricle (LV) in a rat model of 4-week MI.
A total of 144 adult male Wistar rats were subjected to either left anterior coronary artery ligation or sham-operation. The effect of CoPP treatment (5 mg/kg i.p. at the end of the surgical session and, then, once a week for 4 weeks) was evaluated on the basis of survival, electro- and echocardiography, plasma levels of B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP), endothelin-1 and prostaglandin E2, coronary microvascular reactivity, MI size, LV wall thickness and vascularity. Besides, the expression of HO-1 and connexin-43 in different LV territories was assessed by western blot analysis and immunohistochemistry, respectively.
CoPP induced an increased expression of HO-1 protein with >16 h delay. CoPP treatment significantly reduced mortality, MI size, BNP concentration, ECG alterations, LV dysfunction, microvascular constriction, capillary rarefaction and restored connexin-43 expression as compared to untreated MI. These functional and structural changes were paralleled by increased HO-1 expression in all LV territories. HO activity inhibition by tin-mesoporphyrin abolished the differences between CoPP-treated and untreated MI animals.
This is the first report demonstrating the putative role of pharmacological induction of HO-1 following coronary occlusion to benefit infarcted and remote territories, leading to better cardiac function in a 4-week MI outcome.
PMCID: PMC4022338  PMID: 24708733
Myocardial infarction; Coronary microvascular reactivity; Left ventricular vascularity; Ventricular remodeling; Connexin-43; Cobalt protoporphyrin IX; Tin mesoporphyrin
3.  Improved Myocardial Perfusion in Chronic Diabetic Mice by the Up-Regulation of pLKB1 and AMPK Signaling 
Journal of cellular biochemistry  2010;109(5):1033-1044.
Previous studies related impaired myocardial microcirculation in diabetes to oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction. Thus, this study was aimed to determine the effect of up-regulating pAMPK-pAKT signaling on coronary microvascular reactivity in the isolated heart of diabetic mice. We measured coronary resistance in wild-type and streptozotocin (STZ)-treated mice, during perfusion pressure changes. Glucose, insulin, and adiponectin levels in plasma and superoxide formation, NOx levels and heme oxygenase (HO) activity in myocardial tissue were determined. In addition, the expression of HO-1, 3-nitrotyrosine, pLKB1, pAMPK, pAKT, and peNOS proteins in control and diabetic hearts were measured. Coronary response to changes in perfusion pressure diverged from control in a time-dependent manner following STZ administration. The responses observed at 28 weeks of diabetes (the maximum time examined) were mimicked by L-NAME administration to control animals and were associated with a decrease in serum adiponectin and myocardial pLKB1, pAMPK, pAKT, and pGSK-3 expression. Cobalt protoporphyrin treatment to induce HO-1 expression reversed the microvascular reactivity seen in diabetes towards that of controls. Up-regulation of HO-1 was associated with an increase in adiponectin, pLKB1, pAKT, pAMPK, pGSK-3, and peNOS levels and a decrease in myocardial superoxide and 3-nitrotyrosine levels. In the present study we describe the time course of microvascular functional changes during the development of diabetes and the existence of a unique relationship between the levels of serum adiponectin, pLKB1, pAKT, and pAMPK activation in diabetic hearts. The restoration of microvascular function suggests a new therapeutic approach to even advanced cardiac microvascular derangement in diabetes.
PMCID: PMC3723413  PMID: 20108250
Coronary Microcirculation; Diabetic Cardiomyopathy; Heme-Oxygenase-1; Endothelial Dysfunction; Adiponectin
4.  Adiponectin is associated with abnormal lipid profile and coronary microvascular dysfunction in patients with dilated cardiomyopathy without overt heart failure 
Reduced plasma adiponectin has been associated with abnormal lipid profile, reduced left ventricle (LV) function, and the extent of coronary atherosclerosis in coronary artery disease. The aim of this study was to assess these relationships in patients with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) without overt heart failure. Plasma adiponectin was measured in 55 DCM patients (age, 59 ± 12 years; male, 36; body mass index [BMI], 26.9 ± 0.49 kg/m2; LV ejection fraction, 39.8% ± 1.3%; New York Heart Association class I-II) and in 40 age- and BMI-matched healthy controls. In a subset of 25 patients, myocardial blood flow (MBF) was measured at rest and during intravenous dipyridamole (0.56 mg/kg in 4 minutes) by positron emission tomography and 13N-ammonia as a flow tracer. Adiponectin was 6.6 ± 0.34 μg/mL in controls and 10.9 ± 0.85 μg/mL in DCM patients (P < .001), where it was related inversely with BMI (P = .009) and directly with brain natriuretic peptide (P = .017), high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (P = .002), and MBF dipyridamole (P = .020). Adiponectin lesser than median value in patients was associated with higher total to HDL cholesterol ratio (4.8 ± 0.24 vs 3.9 ± 0.18, P = .009) and lower MBF reserve (1.76 ± 0.16 vs 2.43 ± 0.19, P = .01). These results could suggest that down-regulation of the adiponectin levels and reduced HDL cholesterol have a key role in causing impaired coronary function and myocardial perfusion in DCM.
PMCID: PMC3706193  PMID: 20199784
5.  T−786→C polymorphism of the endothelial nitric oxide synthase gene is associated with insulin resistance in patients with ischemic or non ischemic cardiomyopathy 
BMC Medical Genetics  2012;13:92.
Insulin resistance (IR) and endothelial dysfunction are frequently associated in cardiac disease. The T−786→C variant in the promoter region of the endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) gene has been associated with IR in both non-diabetic and diabetic subjects. Aim of the study was to assess the reciprocal relationships between T−786→C eNOS polymorphism and IR in ischemic and non-ischemic cardiomyopathy.
A group of 132 patients (108 males, median age 65 years) with global left ventricular (LV) dysfunction secondary to ischemic or non-ischemic heart disease was enrolled. Genotyping of T−786→C eNOS gene promoter, fasting glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance (defined as HOMA-IR index > 2.5) were determined in all patients.
Genotyping analysis yielded 37 patients homozygous for the T allele (TT), 70 heterozygotes (TC) and 25 homozygous for C (CC). Patients with CC genotype had significantly higher systemic arterial pressure, blood glucose, plasma insulin and HOMA index levels than TT. At multivariate logistic analysis, the history of hypertension and the genotype were the only predictors of IR. In particular, CC genotype increased the risk of IR (CI% 1.4-15.0, p < 0.01) 4.5-fold. The only parameter independently associated with the extent of LV dysfunction and the presence of heart failure (HF) was the HOMA index (2.4 CI% 1.1-5.6, p < 0.04).
T−786→C eNOS polymorphism was the major independent determinant of IR in a population of patients with ischemic and non-ischemic cardiomyopathy. The results suggest that a condition of primitive eNOS lower expression can predispose to an impairment of glucose homeostasis, which in turn is able to affect the severity of heart disease.
PMCID: PMC3495192  PMID: 23031426
eNOS polymorphism; Insulin resistance; Heart failure
6.  Cobalt-Protoporphyrin Improves Heart Function by Blunting Oxidative Stress and Restoring NO Synthase Equilibrium in an Animal Model of Experimental Diabetes 
Myocardial dysfunction and coronary macro/microvascular alterations are the hallmarks of diabetic cardiomyopathy and are ascribed to increased oxidative stress and altered nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity. We hypothesize that pre-treatment by cobalt-protoporphyrin IX (CoPP) ameliorates both myocardial function and coronary circulation in streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic rats. Isolated hearts from diabetic rats in Langendorff configuration displayed lower left ventricular function and higher coronary resistance (CR) compared to hearts from control animals. CoPP treatment of diabetic animals (0.3 mg/100 g body weight i.p., once a week for 3 weeks) significantly increased all the contractile/relaxation indexes (p < 0.01), while decreasing CR (p < 0.01). CoPP enhanced HO-1 protein levels and reduced oxidative stress in diabetic animals, as indicated by the significant (p < 0.05) decrease in heart % GSSG, O2− and malondialdehyde (MDA) levels. CoPP increased adiponectin levels and phosphorylation of AKT and AMPK and reversed the eNOS/iNOS expression imbalance observed in the untreated diabetic heart. Furthermore, after CoPP treatment, a rise in malonyl-CoA as well as a decrease in acetyl-CoA was observed in diabetic hearts. In this experimental model of diabetic cardiomyopathy, CoPP treatment improved both cardiac function and coronary flow by blunting oxidative stress, restoring eNOS/iNOS expression balance and increasing HO-1 levels, thereby favoring improvement in both endothelial function and insulin sensitivity.
PMCID: PMC3366474  PMID: 22675305
diabetes; cardiac contractility; AMPK; nitric oxide; coronary microcirculation
7.  Selection of reference genes in different myocardial regions of an in vivo ischemia/reperfusion rat model for normalization of antioxidant gene expression 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:124.
Changes in cardiac gene expression due to myocardial injury are usually assessed in whole heart tissue. However, as the heart is a heterogeneous system, spatial and temporal heterogeneity is expected in gene expression.
In an ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) rat model we evaluated gene expression of mitochondrial and cytoplasmatic superoxide dismutase (MnSod, Cu-ZnSod) and thioredoxin reductase (trxr1) upon short (4 h) and long (72 h) reperfusion times in the right ventricle (RV), and in the ischemic/reperfused (IRR) and the remote region (RR) of the left ventricle. Gene expression was assessed by Real-time reverse-transcription quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR). In order to select most stable reference genes suitable for normalization purposes, in each myocardial region we tested nine putative reference genes by geNorm analysis. The genes investigated were: Actin beta (actb), Glyceraldehyde-3-P-dehydrogenase (gapdh), Ribosomal protein L13A (rpl13a), Tyrosine 3-monooxygenase (ywhaz), Beta-glucuronidase (gusb), Hypoxanthine guanine Phosphoribosyltransferase 1 (hprt), TATA binding box protein (tbp), Hydroxymethylbilane synthase (hmbs), Polyadenylate-binding protein 1 (papbn1). According to our findings, most stable reference genes in the RV and RR were hmbs/hprt and hmbs/tbp/hprt respectively. In the IRR, six reference genes were recommended for normalization purposes; however, in view of experimental feasibility limitations, target gene expression could be normalized against the three most stable reference genes (ywhaz/pabp/hmbs) without loss of sensitivity. In all cases MnSod and Cu-ZnSod expression decreased upon long reperfusion, the former in all myocardial regions and the latter in IRR alone. trxr1 expression did not vary.
This study provides a validation of reference genes in the RV and in the anterior and posterior wall of the LV of cardiac ischemia/reperfusion model and shows that gene expression should be assessed separately in each region.
PMCID: PMC3392735  PMID: 22377061
8.  Mind-body relationships in elite apnea divers during breath holding: a study of autonomic responses to acute hypoxemia 
The mental control of ventilation with all associated phenomena, from relaxation to modulation of emotions, from cardiovascular to metabolic adaptations, constitutes a psychophysiological condition characterizing voluntary breath-holding (BH). BH induces several autonomic responses, involving both autonomic cardiovascular and cutaneous pathways, whose characterization is the main aim of this study. Electrocardiogram and skin conductance (SC) recordings were collected from 14 elite divers during three conditions: free breathing (FB), normoxic phase of BH (NPBH) and hypoxic phase of BH (HPBH). Thus, we compared a set of features describing signal dynamics between the three experimental conditions: from heart rate variability (HRV) features (in time and frequency-domains and by using nonlinear methods) to rate and shape of spontaneous SC responses (SCRs). The main result of the study rises by applying a Factor Analysis to the subset of features significantly changed in the two BH phases. Indeed, the Factor Analysis allowed to uncover the structure of latent factors which modeled the autonomic response: a factor describing the autonomic balance (AB), one the information increase rate (IIR), and a latter the central nervous system driver (CNSD). The BH did not disrupt the FB factorial structure, and only few features moved among factors. Factor Analysis indicates that during BH (1) only the SC described the emotional output, (2) the sympathetic tone on heart did not change, (3) the dynamics of interbeats intervals showed an increase of long-range correlation that anticipates the HPBH, followed by a drop to a random behavior. In conclusion, data show that the autonomic control on heart rate and SC are differentially modulated during BH, which could be related to a more pronounced effect on emotional control induced by the mental training to BH.
PMCID: PMC3309925  PMID: 22461774
breath holding; heart rate variability; skin conductance response; entropy; detrended fluctuation analysis; apnea; mental control
9.  Effects of long‐term treatment with carvedilol on myocardial blood flow in idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy 
Heart  2007;93(7):808-813.
To assess whether chronic treatment with carvedilol can increase myocardial blood flow (MBF) and MBF reserve in idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy (IDC).
Study design
In a double‐blind, placebo‐controlled trial, 16 consecutive patients with IDC were randomised to treatment with either carvedilol up to 25 mg twice a day (n = 8, 7 men, mean (SD) age 60 (9) years, mean (SD) left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) 30% (5%)), or placebo (n = 8 , 6 men, mean (SD) age 62 (9) years, mean (SD) LVEF 28% (6%), NS vs carvedilol group). Before and 6 months after treatment, regional MBF was measured at rest and after intravenous injection of dipyridamole (Dip; 0.56 mg/kg in 4 min) by positron emission tomography and using 13N‐ammonia as a flow tracer. Exercise capacity was assessed as the time duration in a maximal bicycle exercise stress test.
Carvedilol induced a significant decrease in heart rate at rest and during maximal exercise, and an increase in exercise capacity. Absolute MBF values did not significantly change after carvedilol or placebo treatment, either at rest or during Dip injection, although Dip‐MBF tended to improve after treatment. Coronary flow reserve significantly increased following carvedilol treatment (from 1.67 (0.63) to 2.58 (1.04), p<0.001), whereas it remained unchanged following the placebo treatment (from 1.80 (0.84) to 1.77 (0.60), NS). Stress‐induced regional perfusion defects decreased after carvedilol treatment (from 38% to 15%).
Long‐term treatment with carvedilol can significantly increase coronary flow reserve and reduce the occurrence of stress‐induced perfusion defects, suggesting a favourable effect of the drug on coronary microvascular function in patients with IDC.
PMCID: PMC1994449  PMID: 17237134
10.  Heme Oxygenase-1 Induction Remodels Adipose Tissue and Improves Insulin Sensitivity in Obesity-Induced Diabetic Rats 
Hypertension  2009;53(3):508-515.
Obesity-associated inflammation causes insulin resistance. Obese adipose tissue displays hypertrophied adipocytes and increased expression of the cannabinoid-1 receptor. Cobalt protoporphyrin (CoPP) increases heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) activity, increasing adiponectin and reducing inflammatory cytokines. We hypothesize that CoPP administration to Zucker diabetic fat (ZDF) rats would improve insulin sensitivity and remodel adipose tissue. Twelve-week-old Zucker lean and ZDF rats were divided into 4 groups: Zucker lean, Zucker lean–CoPP, ZDF, and ZDF–CoPP. Control groups received vehicle and treatment groups received CoPP (2 mg/kg body weight) once weekly for 6 weeks. Serum insulin levels and glucose response to insulin injection were measured. At 18 weeks of age, rats were euthanized, and aorta, kidney, and subcutaneous and visceral adipose tissues were harvested. HO-1 expression was measured by Western blot analysis and HO-1 activity by serum carbon monoxide content. Adipocyte size and cannabinoid-1 expression were measured. Adipose tissue volumes were determined using MRI. CoPP significantly increased HO-1 activity, phosphorylated AKT and phosphorylated AMP kinase, and serum adiponectin in ZDF rats. HO-1 induction improved hyperinsulinemia and insulin sensitivity in ZDF rats. Subcutaneous and visceral adipose tissue volumes were significantly decreased in ZDF rats. Adipocyte size and cannabinoid-1 expression were both significantly reduced in ZDF–CoPP rats in subcutaneous and visceral adipose tissues. This study demonstrates that HO-1 induction improves insulin sensitivity, downregulates the peripheral endocannabinoid system, reduces adipose tissue volume, and causes adipose tissue remodeling in a model of obesity-induced insulin resistance. These findings suggest HO-1 as a potential therapeutic target for obesity and its associated health risks.
PMCID: PMC2745551  PMID: 19171794
insulin resistance; heme oxygenase-1; adiponectin; adiposity; endocannabinoid; pAMPK
11.  The L-4F mimetic peptide prevents insulin resistance through increased levels of HO-1, pAMPK, and pAKT in obese mice*1 
Journal of Lipid Research  2009;50(7):1293-1304.
We examined mechanisms by which L-4F reduces obesity and diabetes in obese (ob) diabetic mice. We hypothesized that L-4F reduces adiposity via increased pAMPK, pAKT, HO-1, and increased insulin receptor phosphorylation in ob mice. Obese and lean mice were divided into five groups: lean, lean-L-4F-treated, ob, ob-L-4F-treated, and ob-L-4F-LY294002. Food intake, insulin, glucose adipocyte stem cells, pAMPK, pAKT, CB1, and insulin receptor phosphorylation were determined. Subcutaneous (SAT) and visceral adipose tissue (VAT) were determined by MRI and hepatic lipid content by magnetic resonance spectroscopy. SAT and VAT volumes decreased in ob-L-4F-treated animals compared with control. L-4F treatment decreased hepatic lipid content and increased the numbers of small adipocytes (P < 0.05) and phosphorylation of insulin receptors. L-4F decreased CB1 in SAT and VAT and increased pAKT and pAMPK in endothelium. L-4F-mediated improvement in endothelium was prevented by LY294002. Inhibition of pAKT and pAMPK by LY294002 was associated with an increase in glucose levels. Upregulation of HO-1 by L-4F produced adipose remodeling and increased the number of small differentiated adipocytes. The anti-obesity effects of L-4F are manifested by a decrease in visceral fat content with reciprocal increases in adiponectin, pAMPK, pAKT, and phosphorylation of insulin receptors with improved insulin sensitivity.
PMCID: PMC2694329  PMID: 19224872
diabetes; adiponectin; adiposity; apolipoprotein A-I; heme oxygenase-1; insulin receptor; insulin sensitivity; obesity; endothelial dysfunction
12.  Circulating heat shock proteins and inflammatory markers in patients with idiopathic left ventricular dysfunction: their relationships with myocardial and microvascular impairment 
Cell Stress & Chaperones  2007;12(3):265-274.
Little information is available on peripheral levels of Hsp72, Hsp60, and anti-Hsp60 antibodies in patients with left ventricular (LV) dysfunction due to non-atherosclerotic cardiac disease. In this study, serum Hsp72, Hsp60 and anti-Hsp60 antibodies, IL-6, and C-reactive protein (CRP) were measured in 44 healthy controls and in 82 patients with angiographically normal coronary arteries (LV ejection fraction [EF] ≥ 50%, n = 22; ≥35% to <50%, n = 32; <35%, n = 28). Patients with more severe disease (more depressed myocardial blood flow at rest and during dipyridamole, indicative of coronary microvascular impairment) showed more elevated circulating Hsp60 and auto-antibodies, Hsp72, and CRP levels. IL-6 was increased progressively as a function of severity of LV dysfunction. Anti-Hsp60 antibodies, Hsp72, and IL-6 were significantly correlated with brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) levels and LV end-diastolic dimensions (LVEDD) values. IL-6 tended to be related with Hsp72 in particular in patients with more severe disease (r = 0.45, P = 0.021). Hsp60 and Hsp72 activation and inflammatory markers were correlated with the extent of cardiac and microvascular dysfunction in patients with angiographycally normal coronary arteries. These results suggest a pathogenic role of infective-metabolic insult and inflammatory reaction in the development of vascular and myocardial damage in patients with heart failure even in the absence of overt coronary artery disease.
PMCID: PMC1971236  PMID: 17915559
13.  Diabetes Impairs the Vascular Recruitment of Normal Stem Cells by Oxidant Damage, Reversed by Increases in pAMPK, Heme Oxygenase-1, and Adiponectin 
Stem Cells (Dayton, Ohio)  2009;27(2):399-407.
Atherosclerosis progression is accelerated in diabetes mellitus (DM) by either direct endothelial damage or reduced availability and function of endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs). Both alterations are related to increased oxidant damage.
We examined if DM specifically impairs vascular signaling, thereby reducing the recruitment of normal EPCs, and if increases in antioxidant levels by induction of heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) can reverse this condition.
Control and diabetic rats were treated with the HO-1 inducer cobalt protoporphyrin (CoPP) once a week for 3 weeks. Eight weeks after the development of diabetes, EPCs harvested from the aorta of syngenic inbred normal rats and labeled with technetium-99m-exametazime were infused via the femoral vein to estimate their blood clearance and aortic recruitment. Circulating endothelial cells (CECs) and the aortic expression of thrombomodulin (TM), CD31, and endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) were used to measure endothelial damage.
DM reduced blood clearance and aortic recruitment of EPCs. Both parameters were returned to control levels by CoPP treatment without affecting EPC kinetics in normal animals. These abnormalities of EPCs in DM were paralleled by reduced serum adiponectin levels, increased numbers of CECs, reduced endothelial expression of phosphorylated eNOS, and reduced levels of TM, CD31, and phosphorylated AMP-activated protein kinase (pAMPK). CoPP treatment restored all of these parameters to normal levels.
Type II DM and its related oxidant damage hamper the interaction between the vascular wall and normal EPCs by mechanisms that are, at least partially, reversed by the induction of HO-1 gene expression, adiponectin, and pAMPK levels.
PMCID: PMC2729677  PMID: 19038792
Endothelial progenitor cells; NO; pAMPK; HO-1; Vascular repair; CD31

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