Purpose: The glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) has been shown to exert cardioprotective effects in animals and patients. This study tests the hypothesis that preservation of GLP-1 by the GLP-1 receptor agonist liraglutide or the dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitor linagliptin is associated with a reduction of angiotensin (Ang) II-induced cardiac fibrosis.
Methods and results: Sprague-Dawley rats were subjected to Ang II (500 ng/kg/min) infusion using osmotic minipumps for 4 weeks. Liraglutide (0.3 mg/kg) was subcutaneously injected twice daily or linagliptin (8 mg/kg) was administered via oral gavage daily during Ang II infusion. Relative to the control, liraglutide, but not linagliptin decreased MAP (124 ± 4 vs. 200 ± 7 mmHg in control, p < 0.003). Liraglutide and linagliptin comparatively reduced the protein level of the Ang II AT1 receptor and up-regulated the AT2 receptor as identified by a reduced AT1/AT2 ratio (0.4 ± 0.02 and 0.7 ± 0.01 vs. 1.4 ± 0.2 in control, p < 0.05), coincident with the less locally-expressed AT1 receptor and enhanced AT2 receptor in the myocardium and peri-coronary vessels. Both drugs significantly reduced the populations of macrophages (16 ± 6 and 19 ± 7 vs. 61 ± 29 number/HPF in control, p < 0.05) and α-SMA expressing myofibroblasts (17 ± 7 and 13 ± 4 vs. 66 ± 29 number/HPF in control, p < 0.05), consistent with the reduction in expression of TGFβ1 and phospho-Smad2/3, and up-regulation of Smad7. Furthermore, ACE2 activity (334 ± 43 and 417 ± 51 vs. 288 ± 19 RFU/min/μg protein in control, p < 0.05) and GLP-1 receptor expression were significantly up-regulated. Along with these modulations, the synthesis of collagen I and tissue fibrosis were inhibited as determined by the smaller collagen-rich area and more viable myocardium.
Conclusion: These results demonstrate for the first time that preservation of GLP-1 using liraglutide or linagliptin is effective in inhibiting Ang II-induced cardiac fibrosis, suggesting that these drugs could be selected as an adjunctive therapy to improve clinical outcomes in the fibrosis-derived heart failure patients with or without diabetes.