Acute and Chronic Increases of Circulating FSTL1 Normalize Energy Substrate Metabolism in Pacing-Induced Heart Failure

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FSTL1 (follistatin-like protein 1) is an emerging cardiokine/myokine that is upregulated in heart failure (HF) and is found to be cardioprotective in animal models of cardiac injury. We tested the hypothesis that circulating FSTL1 can affect cardiac function and metabolism under baseline physiological conditions and in HF.

Methods and Results:

FSTL1 was acutely (10 minutes) or chronically (2 weeks) infused to attain clinically relevant blood levels in conscious dogs with cardiac tachypacing-induced HF. Dogs with no cardiac pacing and FSTL1 infusion served as control. 3H-oleate and 14C-glucose were infused to track the metabolic fate of free fatty acids and glucose. Cardiac uptake of lactate and ketone bodies and systemic respiratory quotient were also measured. HF caused a shift from prevalent cardiac and systemic fat to carbohydrate oxidation. Although acute FSTL1 administration caused minimal hemodynamic changes at baseline, in HF dogs it enhanced cardiac oxygen consumption and transiently reversed the changes in free fatty acid and glucose oxidation and systemic respiratory quotient. In HF, chronic FSTL1 infusion stably normalized cardiac free fatty acid, glucose, ketone body consumption, and systemic respiratory quotient, while moderately improving diastolic and contractile function. Consistently, FSTL1 prevented the downregulation of medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase—a representative enzyme of the free fatty acid oxidation pathway. Complementary in vitro experiments in primary cardiac and skeletal muscle myocytes showed that FSTL1 stimulated oxygen consumption through AMPK (AMP-activated kinase) activation.


These findings support a novel function for FSTL1 and provide the first direct evidence that a circulating cardiokine/myokine can alter myocardial and systemic energy substrate metabolism, in vivo.

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