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RATIONALE: In diabetic patients, heart failure with predominant left ventricular (LV) diastolic dysfunction is a common complication for which there is no effective treatment. Oxidation of the NOS (nitric oxide synthase) cofactor tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) and dysfunctional NOS activity have been implicated in the pathogenesis of the diabetic vascular and cardiomyopathic phenotype. OBJECTIVE: Using mice models and human myocardial samples, we evaluated whether and by which mechanism increasing myocardial BH4 availability prevented or reversed LV dysfunction induced by diabetes. METHODS AND RESULTS: In contrast to the vascular endothelium, BH4 levels, superoxide production, and NOS activity (by liquid chromatography) did not differ in the LV myocardium of diabetic mice or in atrial tissue from diabetic patients. Nevertheless, the impairment in both cardiomyocyte relaxation and [Ca2+]i (intracellular calcium) decay and in vivo LV function (echocardiography and tissue Doppler) that developed in wild-type mice 12 weeks post-diabetes induction (streptozotocin, 42-45 mg/kg) was prevented in mGCH1-Tg (mice with elevated myocardial BH4 content secondary to trangenic overexpression of GTP-cyclohydrolase 1) and reversed in wild-type mice receiving oral BH4 supplementation from the 12th to the 18th week after diabetes induction. The protective effect of BH4 was abolished by CRISPR/Cas9-mediated knockout of nNOS (the neuronal NOS isoform) in mGCH1-Tg. In HEK (human embryonic kidney) cells, S-nitrosoglutathione led to a PKG (protein kinase G)-dependent increase in plasmalemmal density of the insulin-independent glucose transporter GLUT-1 (glucose transporter-1). In cardiomyocytes, mGCH1 overexpression induced a NO/sGC (soluble guanylate cyclase)/PKG-dependent increase in glucose uptake via GLUT-1, which was instrumental in preserving mitochondrial creatine kinase activity, oxygen consumption rate, LV energetics (by 31phosphorous magnetic resonance spectroscopy), and myocardial function. CONCLUSIONS: We uncovered a novel mechanism whereby myocardial BH4 prevents and reverses LV diastolic and systolic dysfunction associated with diabetes via an nNOS-mediated increase in insulin-independent myocardial glucose uptake and utilization. These findings highlight the potential of GCH1/BH4-based therapeutics in human diabetic cardiomyopathy. Graphic Abstract: A graphic abstract is available for this article.

Original publication




Journal article


Circ Res

Publication Date





585 - 601


cardiovascular disease, glucose, heart failure, mice, nitric oxide synthase, Animals, Biopterin, Diabetic Cardiomyopathies, GTP Cyclohydrolase, Glucose, Glucose Transporter Type 1, Glutathione, HEK293 Cells, Humans, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Myocytes, Cardiac, Nitric Oxide Synthase Type I, Ventricular Dysfunction, Left