Gαi-biased apelin analog protects against isoproterenol-induced myocardial dysfunction in rats

Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2021 Apr 1;320(4):H1646-H1656. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00688.2020. Epub 2021 Feb 26.


Apelin receptor (APJ) activation by apelin-13 (APLN-13) engages both Gαi proteins and β-arrestins, stimulating distinct intracellular pathways and triggering physiological responses like enhanced cardiac contractility. Substituting the C-terminal phenylalanine of APLN-13 with α-methyl-l-phenylalanine [(l-α-Me)Phe] or p-benzoyl-l-phenylalanine (Bpa) generates biased analogs inducing APJ functional selectivity toward Gαi proteins. Using these original analogs, we proposed to investigate how the canonical Gαi signaling of APJ regulates the cardiac function and to assess their therapeutic impact in a rat model of isoproterenol-induced myocardial dysfunction. In vivo and ex vivo infusions of either Bpa or (l-α-Me)Phe analogs failed to enhance rats' left ventricular (LV) contractility compared with APLN-13. Inhibition of Gαi with pertussis toxin injection optimized the cardiotropic effect of APLN-13 and revealed the inotropic impact of Bpa. Moreover, both APLN-13 and Bpa efficiently limited the forskolin-induced and PKA-dependent phosphorylation of phospholamban at the Ser16 in neonatal rat ventricular myocytes. However, only Bpa significantly reduced the inotropic effect of forskolin infusion in isolated-perfused heart, highlighting its efficient bias toward Gαi. Compared with APLN-13, Bpa also markedly improved isoproterenol-induced myocardial systolic and diastolic dysfunctions. Bpa prevented cardiac weight increase, normalized both ANP and BNP mRNA expressions, and decreased LV fibrosis in isoproterenol-treated rats. Our results show that APJ-driven Gαi/adenylyl cyclase signaling is functional in cardiomyocytes and acts as negative feedback of the APLN-APJ-dependent inotropic response. Biased APJ signaling toward Gαi over the β-arrestin pathway offers a promising strategy in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases related to myocardial hypertrophy and high catecholamine levels.NEW & NOTEWORTHY By using more potent Gαi-biased APJ agonists that strongly inhibit cAMP production, these data point to the negative inotropic effect of APJ-mediated Gαi signaling in the heart and highlight the potential protective impact of APJ-dependent Gαi signaling in cardiovascular diseases associated with left ventricular hypertrophy.

Keywords: APJ receptor; apelin; biased ligands; cardioprotection; isoproterenol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenylyl Cyclases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Apelin / analogs & derivatives
  • Apelin / pharmacology*
  • Apelin Receptors / agonists*
  • Apelin Receptors / metabolism
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits / metabolism*
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Isolated Heart Preparation
  • Isoproterenol
  • Ligands
  • Male
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / drug effects*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Signal Transduction
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Left / chemically induced
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Left / metabolism
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Left / physiopathology
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Left / prevention & control*
  • Ventricular Function, Left / drug effects*


  • Apelin
  • Apelin Receptors
  • Aplnr protein, rat
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Ligands
  • apelin-13 peptide
  • phospholamban
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • Adenylyl Cyclases
  • Isoproterenol