mTOR-Independent autophagy inducer trehalose rescues against insulin resistance-induced myocardial contractile anomalies: Role of p38 MAPK and Foxo1

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Graphical abstractInsulin resistance is associated with cardiovascular diseases although the precise mechanisms remain elusive. Akt2, a critical member of the Akt family, plays an essential role in insulin signaling. This study was designed to examine the effect of trehalose, an mTOR-independent autophagy inducer, on myocardial function in an Akt2 knockout-induced insulin resistance model. Adult WT and Akt2 knockout (Akt2−/−) mice were administered trehalose (1 mg/g/day, i.p.) for two days and were then given 2% trehalose in drinking water for two more months. Echocardiographic and myocardial mechanics, intracellular Ca2+ properties, glucose tolerance, and autophagy were assessed. Apoptosis and ER stress were evaluated using TUNEL staining, Caspase 3 assay and Western blot. Autophagy and autophagy flux were examined with a focus on p38 mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK), Forkhead box O (Foxo1) and Akt. Akt2 ablation impaired glucose tolerance, myocardial geometry and function accompanied with pronounced apoptosis, ER stress and dampened autophagy, the effects of which were ameliorated by trehalose treatment. Inhibition of lysosomal activity using bafilomycin A1 negated trehalose–induced induction of autophagy (LC3B-II and p62). Moreover, phosphorylation of p38 MAPK and Foxo1 were upregulated in Akt2−/− mice, the effect of which was attenuated by trehalose. Phosphorylation of Akt was suppressed in Akt2−/− mice and was unaffected by trehalose. In vitro findings revealed that the p38 MAPK activator anisomycin and the Foxo1 inhibitor (through phosphorylation) AS1842856 effectively masked trehalose-offered beneficial cardiomyocyte contractile response against Akt2 ablation. These data suggest that trehalose may rescue against insulin resistance-induced myocardial contractile defect and apoptosis, via autophagy associated with dephosphorylation of p38 MAPK and Foxo1 without affecting phosphorylation of Akt.

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