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ContextVisceral adiposity plays a significant role in cardiovascular risk. PDE5 inhibitors (PDE5i) can improve cardiac function and insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes patients.ObjectiveTo investigate whether PDE5i affect visceral adipose tissue (VAT), specifically epicardial fat (epicardial adipose tissue [EAT]), and what mechanism is involved, using microarray-based profiling of pharmacologically modulated microRNA (miRNAs).DesignRandomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in type 2 diabetes.Patients and interventionA total of 59 diabetic patients were randomized to receive 100-mg/d sildenafil or placebo for 12 weeks. Fat biopsies were collected in a subgroup of patients. In a parallel protocol, db/db mice were randomized to 12 weeks of sildenafil or vehicle, and VAT was collected.Main outcome and measuresAnthropometric and metabolic parameters, EAT quantification through cardiac magnetic resonance imaging, array of 2005 circulating miRNAs, quantitative PCR, and flow cytometry of VAT.ResultsCompared with placebo, sildenafil reduced waist circumference (P = .024) and EAT (P = .045). Microarray analysis identified some miRNAs differentially regulated by sildenafil, including down-regulation of miR-22-3p, confirmed by real-time quantitative PCR (P < .001). Sildenafil's modulation of miR-22-3p expression was confirmed in vitro in HL1 cardiomyocytes. Up-regulation of SIRT1, a known target of miR-22-3p, was found in both serum and sc fat in sildenafil-treated subjects. Compared with vehicle, 12-week sildenafil treatment down-regulated miR-22-3p and up-regulated Sirtuin1 (SIRT1) gene expression in VAT from db/db mice, shifting adipose tissue cell composition toward a less inflamed profile.ConclusionsTreatment with PDE5i in humans and murine models of diabetes improves VAT, targeting SIRT1 through a modulation of miR-22-3p expression.

Original publication




Journal article


The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism

Publication Date





1525 - 1534


Department of Experimental Medicine (D.F., D.G., E.G., C.d.D., R.P., C.P., E.S., A.L., M.A.V., A.M.I.), Sapienza University of Rome, 00161 Rome, Italy; Department of Radiological, Oncological and Pathological Sciences (N.G., I.C.), Sapienza University of Rome, 00161 Rome, Italy; and Department of Anatomical, Histological, Forensic, and Orthopaedic Sciences (G.P., F.N.), Sapienza University, 00161 Rome, Italy.


Animals, Humans, Mice, Mice, Obese, Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2, MicroRNAs, Flow Cytometry, Double-Blind Method, Adult, Aged, Middle Aged, Male, Adiposity, Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases, Type 5, Obesity, Abdominal, Sirtuin 1, Phosphodiesterase 5 Inhibitors, Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction, Sildenafil Citrate