Impaired nitric oxide (NO)-soluble guanylate cyclase (sGC)-cGMP signaling is involved in the pathogenesis of ischemic heart diseases, yet the impact of long-term sGC activation on progressive cardiac remodeling and heart failure after myocardial infarction (MI) has not been explored. Moreover, it is unknown whether stimulating the NO/heme-independent sGC provides additional benefits to ACE inhibition in chronic ischemic heart failure. Starting 10 days after MI, rats were treated with placebo, the sGC activator ataciguat (10 mg/kg/twice daily), ramipril (1 mg/kg/day), or a combination of both for 9 weeks. Long-term ataciguat therapy reduced left ventricular (LV) diastolic filling pressure and pulmonary edema, improved the rightward shift of the pressure-volume curve, LV contractile function and diastolic stiffness, without lowering blood pressure. NO/heme-independent sGC activation provided protection over ACE inhibition against mitochondrial superoxide production and progressive fibrotic remodeling, ultimately leading to a further improvement of cardiac performance, hypertrophic growth and heart failure. We found that ataciguat stimulating sGC activity was potentiated in (myo)fibroblasts during hypoxia-induced oxidative stress and that NO/heme-independent sGC activation modulated fibroblast-cardiomyocyte crosstalk in the context of heart failure and hypoxia. In addition, ataciguat inhibited human cardiac fibroblast differentiation and extracellular matrix protein production in response to TGF-β1. Overall, long-term sGC activation targeting extracellular matrix homeostasis conferred cardioprotection against progressive cardiac dysfunction, pathological remodeling and heart failure after myocardial infarction. NO/heme-independent sGC activation may prove to be a useful therapeutic target in patients with chronic heart failure and ongoing fibrotic remodeling.
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