Empagliflozin restores chronic kidney disease-induced impairment of endothelial regulation of cardiomyocyte relaxation and contraction

Kidney Int. 2021 May;99(5):1088-1101. doi: 10.1016/j.kint.2020.12.013. Epub 2020 Dec 23.


Chronic kidney disease (CKD) promotes development of cardiac abnormalities and is highly prevalent in patients with heart failure, particularly in those with preserved ejection fraction. CKD is associated with endothelial dysfunction, however, whether CKD can induce impairment of endothelium-to-cardiomyocyte crosstalk leading to impairment of cardiomyocyte function is not known. The sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 inhibitor, empagliflozin, reduced cardiovascular events in diabetic patients with or without CKD, suggesting its potential as a new treatment for heart failure with preserved ejection fraction. We hypothesized that uremic serum from patients with CKD would impair endothelial control of cardiomyocyte relaxation and contraction, and that empagliflozin would protect against this effect. Using a co-culture system of human cardiac microvascular endothelial cells with adult rat ventricular cardiomyocytes to measure cardiomyocyte relaxation and contraction, we showed that serum from patients with CKD impaired endothelial enhancement of cardiomyocyte function which was rescued by empagliflozin. Exposure to uremic serum reduced human cardiac microvascular endothelial cell nitric oxide bioavailability, and increased mitochondrial reactive oxygen species and 3-nitrotyrosine levels, indicating nitric oxide scavenging by reactive oxygen species. Empagliflozin attenuated uremic serum-induced generation of endothelial mitochondrial reactive oxygen species, leading to restoration of nitric oxide production and endothelium-mediated enhancement of nitric oxide levels in cardiomyocytes, an effect largely independent of sodium-hydrogen exchanger-1. Thus, empagliflozin restores the beneficial effect of cardiac microvascular endothelial cells on cardiomyocyte function by reducing mitochondrial oxidative damage, leading to reduced reactive oxygen species accumulation and increased endothelial nitric oxide bioavailability.

Keywords: cardiomyocyte relaxation and contraction; chronic kidney disease; empagliflozin; endothelium-to-cardiomyocyte crosstalk; heart failure; mitochondrial oxidative damage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Endothelial Cells
  • Endothelium
  • Endothelium, Vascular
  • Glucosides
  • Humans
  • Myocytes, Cardiac*
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Rats
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic* / drug therapy


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Glucosides
  • Nitric Oxide
  • empagliflozin