PPAR- γ agonist in treatment of diabetes: cardiovascular safety considerations

Cardiovasc Hematol Agents Med Chem. 2012 Jun;10(2):124-34. doi: 10.2174/187152512800388948.


The peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) are nuclear fatty acid receptors, which contain a type II zinc finger DNA binding motif and a hydrophobic ligand binding pocket. These receptors are thought to play an important role in metabolic diseases such as obesity, insulin resistance, and coronary artery disease. Three subtypes of PPAR receptors have been described: PPARα, PPARδ/β, and PPARγ. PPARα is found in the liver, muscle, kidney, and heart. In the liver, its role is to up-regulate genes involved in fatty acid uptake, binding, β-oxidation and electron transport, and oxidative phosphorylation in subcutaneous fat but not in skeletal muscle. PPARδ/β is expressed in many tissues but markedly in brain, adipose tissue, and skin. PPARγ has high expression in fat, low expression in the liver, and very low expression in the muscle. The thiazolidinediones (TZD) are synthetic ligands of PPARγ. By activating a number of genes in tissues, PPARγ increases glucose and lipid uptake, increases glucose oxidation, decreases free fatty acid concentration, and decreases insulin resistance. Although, there is a rationale for the use of TZDs in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus, clinical studies have produced conflicting data. While currently used TZDs are clearly associated with heart failure (HF) worsening; with regards to cardiovascular outcomes, pioglitazone seems to be related to a trend toward reduction in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, whereas rosiglitazone may actually increase risk of cardiovascular events. We review the existing literature on TZDs and discuss role and cardiovascular safety of these agents for the contemporary treatment of diabetes. Other side effects of these agents i.e. increase in osteoporosis and possible risk of bladder cancer is also discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents* / administration & dosage
  • Hypoglycemic Agents* / adverse effects
  • Hypoglycemic Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Insulin Resistance
  • PPAR gamma / agonists*
  • Risk
  • Thiazolidinediones* / administration & dosage
  • Thiazolidinediones* / adverse effects
  • Thiazolidinediones* / therapeutic use


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • PPAR gamma
  • Thiazolidinediones