Background: Endothelial dysfunction plays a key role in atherogenesis. We investigated whether AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) activity is a downstream mediator of the beneficial effects of cilostazol on vascular endothelial cells and whether cilostazol might reverse endothelial dysfunction in diabetic rats.
Methods and results: Treatment of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) with cilostazol resulted in time-dependent activation of AMPK, as monitored by phosphorylation of AMPK and its down-stream target, acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC). Activation of AMPK by cilostazol was through signaling pathway independent of cyclic AMP and caused phosphorylation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS), leading to increased production of nitric oxide (NO), while inhibiting cytokine-induced nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) activation, leading to suppression of VCAM-1 gene expression. Significantly reduced eNOS activity and NO production in response to cilostazol and attenuation of cilostazol-induced inhibition of NF-kappaB activation were observed in cells treated with AMPK siRNA. We also demonstrated that administration of cilostazol to diabetic rats significantly restored endothelium-dependent vasodilation. Furthermore, treatment of diabetic rats with cilostazol increased tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) levels in the aorta. Thus, recovery of BH4 following administration of cilostazol might also contribute to restoration of endothelial function in diabetic rats.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the beneficial effects of cilostazol on endothelial function may be due to AMPK activation. Restoration of endothelial dysfunction in diabetic rats by cilostazol is at least partly attributed to amelioration of biopterin metabolism in the aorta.