Aims: The EMPA-REG OUTCOME study showed reduced mortality and hospitalization due to heart failure (HF) in diabetic patients treated with empagliflozin. Overexpression and Ca2+ -dependent activation of Ca2+ /calmodulin-dependent kinase II (CaMKII) are hallmarks of HF, leading to contractile dysfunction and arrhythmias. We tested whether empagliflozin reduces CaMKII- activity and improves Ca2+ -handling in human and murine ventricular myocytes.
Methods and results: Myocytes from wild-type mice, mice with transverse aortic constriction (TAC) as a model of HF, and human failing ventricular myocytes were exposed to empagliflozin (1 μmol/L) or vehicle. CaMKII activity was assessed by CaMKII-histone deacetylase pulldown assay. Ca2+ spark frequency (CaSpF) as a measure of sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca2+ leak was investigated by confocal microscopy. [Na+ ]i was measured using Na+ /Ca2+ -exchanger (NCX) currents (whole-cell patch clamp). Compared with vehicle, 24 h empagliflozin exposure of murine myocytes reduced CaMKII activity (1.6 ± 0.7 vs. 4.2 ± 0.9, P < 0.05, n = 10 mice), and also CaMKII-dependent ryanodine receptor phosphorylation (0.8 ± 0.1 vs. 1.0 ± 0.1, P < 0.05, n = 11 mice), with similar results upon TAC. In murine myocytes, empagliflozin reduced CaSpF (TAC: 1.7 ± 0.3 vs. 2.5 ± 0.4 1/100 μm-1 s-1 , P < 0.05, n = 4 mice) but increased SR Ca2+ load and Ca2+ transient amplitude. Importantly, empagliflozin also significantly reduced CaSpF in human failing ventricular myocytes (1 ± 0.2 vs. 3.3 ± 0.9, P < 0.05, n = 4 patients), while Ca2+ transient amplitude was increased (F/F0 : 0.53 ± 0.05 vs. 0.36 ± 0.02, P < 0.05, n = 3 patients). In contrast, 30 min exposure with empagliflozin did not affect CaMKII activity nor Ca2+ -handling but significantly reduced [Na+ ]i .
Conclusions: We show for the first time that empagliflozin reduces CaMKII activity and CaMKII-dependent SR Ca2+ leak. Reduced Ca2+ leak and improved Ca2+ transients may contribute to the beneficial effects of empagliflozin in HF.
Keywords: Ca leak; CaMKII; Calcium; Empagliflozin; Heart failure.
© 2018 The Authors. ESC Heart Failure published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of the European Society of Cardiology.