Insulin sensitizers, while effective in glucose-lowering for diabetes control, are linked to an increased risk of heart disease through mechanisms that are not well understood. In this study, we investigated the molecular mechanisms underlying the effects of insulin sensitization on cardiac sinus node dysfunction. We used pharmacologic or genetic approaches to enhance insulin sensitivity, by treating with pioglitazone or rosiglitazone, or through phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) deletion in cardiomyocytes respectively. We employed an angiotensin II (Ang II)-induced hypertensive animal model which causes sinus node dysfunction and accumulation of oxidized calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII), which also serves as a biomarker for this defect. While neither PTEN deficiency nor insulin sensitizers caused sinus node dysfunction in normotensive mice, both accelerated the onset of sinus node dysfunction and CaMKII oxidation in hypertensive mice. These abnormalities were accompanied by a significant defect in autophagy as revealed by unc-51 like autophagy activating kinase 1 (ULK1) signaling. Indeed, mice deficient in ulk1 in cardiomyocytes and the sinus node also showed early onset of slow atrial impulse conduction with frequent sinus pauses and upregulated CaMKII oxidation following Ang II infusion similar to that seen with PTEN deficiency, or treatment with insulin sensitizers. To further elucidate the role of autophagy in sinus node dysfunction, we treated mice with a peptide D-Tat-beclin1 that enhanced autophagy, which significantly abrogated the frequent sinus pauses and accumulation of oxidized CaMKII induced by insulin sensitizers treatment, or PTEN deficiency in hypertensive animals. Together, these findings provide clear evidence of the detrimental cardiac effects of insulin sensitization that occurs through failure of autophagy-mediated proteolytic clearance.
- Insulin Sensitizer