Empagliflozin reduces the levels of CD36 and cardiotoxic lipids while improving autophagy in the hearts of Zucker diabetic fatty rats

Biochem Pharmacol. 2019 Dec;170:113677. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2019.113677. Epub 2019 Oct 21.


The EMPA-REG OUTCOME (Empagliflozin, Cardiovascular Outcome Event Trial in patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM)) trial made evident the potentiality of pharmacological sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibition for treating patients with diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Since the effect of empagliflozin or other SGLT2 inhibitors on the whole cardiac metabolic profile was never analysed before, and with the purpose to contribute to elucidate the benefits at cardiac level of the use of empagliflozin, we explored the effect of the treatment with empagliflozin for six weeks on the cardiac metabolomic profile of Zucker diabetic fatty rats, a model of early stage T2DM, using untargeted metabolomics approach. Empagliflozin reduced significantly the cardiac content of sphingolipids (ceramides and sphingomyelins) and glycerophospholipids (major bioactive contributing factors linking insulin resistance to cardiac damage) and decreased the cardiac content of the fatty acid transporter cluster of differentiation 36 (CD36); induced significant decreases of the cardiac levels of essential glycolysis intermediaries 2,3-bisphosphoglycerate and phosphoenolpyruvate, and regulated the abundance of several amino acids of relevance as tricarboxylic acid suppliers and/or in the metabolic control of the cardiac function as glutamic acid, gamma-aminobutyric acid and sarcosine. Empagliflozin treatment activated the cardioprotective master regulator of cellular energyhomeostasis AMP-activatedproteinkinase (AMPK) and enhanced autophagy at cardiac level, while it decreased significantly the cardiac mRNA levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin-6 (IL-6), chemerin, TNF-α and MCP-1, reinforcing the hypothesis of a direct role for empagliflozin in attenuating cardiac inflammation. Our results provide an advancement on the knowledge of the mechanisms linking the therapy with empagliflozin with protective effects on the development of cardiometabolic diseases whose course is associated with remarkable cardiac bioenergetics dysregulation and disarrangement in cardiac metabolome and lipidome.

Keywords: Ceramides; Empagliflozin; Glycerophospholipids; Heart; Metabolomics; Sphingolipids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy / drug effects
  • Autophagy / physiology*
  • Benzhydryl Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Body Composition / drug effects
  • Body Composition / physiology
  • CD36 Antigens / antagonists & inhibitors
  • CD36 Antigens / metabolism*
  • Glucosides / pharmacology*
  • Heart / drug effects
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology*
  • Male
  • Myocardium / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Zucker
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 / metabolism
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 Inhibitors / pharmacology*


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • CD36 Antigens
  • Cd36 protein, rat
  • Glucosides
  • Slc5a2 protein, rat
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 Inhibitors
  • empagliflozin