Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is an independent risk factor for atrial fibrillation (AF) and stroke. The serine protease cathepsin A (CatA) is up-regulated in diabetes and plays an important role in the degradation of extracellular peptides. This study sought to delineate the role of CatA for the development of atrial remodelling under diabetic conditions.Methods and results
Zucker Diabetic Fatty rats (ZDF) were treated with vehicle (n = 20) or CatA-inhibitor (SAR; 50 mg/kg; n = 20), and compared with age-matched non-diabetic littermates (Ctr, n = 20). Left-atrial (LA) emptying function [magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)] and atrial electrophysiological parameters were measured before sacrifice for histological and biochemical analysis. The impact of enhanced cardiac CatA expression on atrial remodelling was determined using CatA-transgenic mice. At the age of 9.5 months, atrial tissues of ZDF rats showed increased CatA gene expression and CatA-activity, along with increased AF-susceptibility and impaired LA-emptying function. CatA-inhibition reduced CatA-activity in ZDF comparable to Ctr values and decreased LA-fibrosis formation and connexin 43 lateralization. This was associated with shorter median duration of LA-tachyarrhythmia (12.0 ± 1.7 vs. 1.2 ± 0.47 s, P < 0.01) induced by burst pacing and diminished regions of slow conduction. Cardiac MRI revealed better LA-emptying function parameters (active per cent emptying: 29 ± 1 vs. 23 ± 2%, P < 0.01) after CatA-inhibition. CatA-inhibition reduced LA bradykinin-degrading activity in ZDF. Transgenic mice overexpressing CatA demonstrated enhanced atrial fibrosis formation and increased AF-susceptibility.Conclusion
T2D leads to arrhythmogenic atrial remodelling in ZDF rats. CatA-inhibition reduces LA bradykinin-degrading activity in ZDF and suppresses the development of atrial structural changes and AF-promotion, implicating CatA as an important mediator for AF-substrate in T2D.