Diabetes constitutes a major health challenge. Since cardiovascular complications are common in diabetic patients this will further increase the overall burden of disease. Furthermore, stress-induced hyperglycemia in non-diabetic patients with acute myocardial infarction is associated with higher in-hospital mortality. Previous studies implicate oxidative stress, excessive flux through the hexosamine biosynthetic pathway (HBP) and a dysfunctional ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) as potential mediators of this process. Since oleanolic acid (OA; a clove extract) possesses antioxidant properties, we hypothesized that it attenuates acute and chronic hyperglycemia-mediated pathophysiologic molecular events (oxidative stress, apoptosis, HBP, UPS) and thereby improves contractile function in response to ischemia-reperfusion. We employed several experimental systems: 1) H9c2 cardiac myoblasts were exposed to 33 mM glucose for 48 hr vs. controls (5 mM glucose); and subsequently treated with two OA doses (20 and 50 μM) for 6 and 24 hr, respectively; 2) Isolated rat hearts were perfused ex vivo with Krebs-Henseleit buffer containing 33 mM glucose vs. controls (11 mM glucose) for 60 min, followed by 20 min global ischemia and 60 min reperfusion ± OA treatment; 3) In vivo coronary ligations were performed on streptozotocin treated rats ± OA administration during reperfusion; and 4) Effects of long-term OA treatment (2 weeks) on heart function was assessed in streptozotocin-treated rats. Our data demonstrate that OA treatment blunted high glucose-induced oxidative stress and apoptosis in heart cells. OA therapy also resulted in cardioprotection, i.e. for ex vivo and in vivo rat hearts exposed to ischemia-reperfusion under hyperglycemic conditions. In parallel, we found decreased oxidative stress, apoptosis, HBP flux and proteasomal activity following ischemia-reperfusion. Long-term OA treatment also improved heart function in streptozotocin-diabetic rats. These findings are promising since it may eventually result in novel therapeutic interventions to treat acute hyperglycemia (in non-diabetic patients) and diabetic patients with associated cardiovascular complications.
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