Netrin-1 is a novel regulator of vascular endothelial function in diabetes

Haroldo A. Toque, Aracely Fernandez-Flores, Riyaz Mohamed, Ruth B. Caldwell, Ganesan Ramesh, R. William Caldwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Background: Netrin-1, a secreted laminin-like protein identified as an axon guidance molecule, has been shown to be of critical importance in the cardiovascular system. Recent studies have revealed pro-angiogenic, anti-apoptotic and anti-inflammatory properties of netrin-1 as well as cardioprotective actions against myocardial injury in diabetic mice. Aim: To examine the role of netrin-1 in diabetes-and high glucose (HG)-induced vascular endothelial dysfunction (VED) using netrin-1 transgenic mice (Tg3) and cultured bovine aortic endothelial cells (BAEC). Main outcome: Overexpression of netrin-1 prevented diabetes-induced VED in aorta from diabetic mice and netrin-1 treatment attenuated HG-induced impairment of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) function in BAECs. Methods and results: Experiments were performed in Tg3 and littermate control (WT) mice rendered diabetic with streptozotocin (STZ) and in BAECs treated with HG (25 mmol/L). Levels of netrin-1 and its receptor DCC, markers of inflammation and apoptosis and vascular function were assessed in aortas from diabetic and non-diabetic Tg3 and WT mice. Vascular netrin-1 in WT mice was reduced under diabetic conditions. Aortas from non-diabetic Tg3 and WT mice showed similar maximum endothelium-dependent relaxation (MEDR) (83% and 87%, respectively). MEDR was markedly impaired in aorta from diabetic WT mice (51%). This effect was significantly blunted in Tg3 diabetic aortas (70%). Improved vascular relaxation in Tg3 diabetic mice was associated with increased levels of phospho-ERK1/2 and reduced levels of oxidant stress, NFêB, COX-2, p16INK4A, cleaved caspase-3 and p16 and p53 mRNA. Netrin-1 treatment prevented the HG-induced decrease in NO production and elevation of oxidative stress and apoptosis in BAECs. Conclusions: Diabetes decreases aortic levels of netrin-1. However, overexpression of netrin-1 attenuates diabetes-induced VED and limits the reduction of NO levels, while increasing expression of p-ERK1/2, and suppressing oxidative stress and inflammatory and apoptotic processes. Enhancement of netrin-1 function may be a useful therapeutic means for preventing vascular dysfunction in diabetes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0186734
JournalPloS one
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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