Background: The dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitor sitagliptin, a new anti-diabetic medicine, is effective in treating type 2 diabetes mellitus by increasing the activation and duration of action of glucagon-like peptide-1. Since atherosclerosis is the main pathological feature of diabetic cardiovascular complications, it is important to investigate the anti-atherosclerotic effect of sitagliptin and explore the relevant mechanisms.
Methods: Male apolipoprotein-E-knockout mice were randomly divided into two groups and fed either high-fat diet (HFD) or HFD plus sitagliptin at a concentration of 0.3% for 16 weeks. Body weight, food intake, blood glucose, serum lipids and adhesion molecules were measured. The atherosclerotic plaque area and its histological composition were analyzed using Sudan staining and immunohistochemistry. The expression of inflammatory cytokines (monocyte chemoattractant protein (MCP)-1 and interleukin (IL)-6) and the activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) in the aortas were determined using quantitative polymerase chain reaction and western blot, respectively.
Results: Mice treated with sitagliptin developed fewer atherosclerotic plaques than the control group (7.64 ± 1.98% vs 12.91 ± 1.15%, p < 0.001), particularly in the aortic arch and abdominal aorta, where plaques were decreased 1.92- and 2.74-fold, respectively (p < 0.05 and p < 0.01). Sitagliptin significantly reduced the content of collagen fiber in plaques 1.2-fold (p < 0.05). Moreover, sitagliptin significantly reduced the expression of monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 and interleukin-6 in the aorta (p < 0.01 and p < 0.05), as well as the serum levels of soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 and P-selectin (both p < 0.05). In addition, Sitagliptin induced phosphorylation of AMPK and Akt (p < 0.05 and p < 0.01), while suppressed phosphorylation of p38 and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (Erk) 1/2 (p < 0.05 and p < 0.01) in aortas.
Conclusions: Our present study indicates that sitagliptin can reduce the area of the atherosclerotic lesion, possibly by regulating the AMPK and MAPK pathways and then reducing leukocyte -endothelial cell interaction and inflammation reactions. These actions are independent of weight loss and glucose-reducing effects.