The novel small molecule R118 and the biguanide metformin, a first-line therapy for type 2 diabetes (T2D), both activate the critical cellular energy sensor 5'-AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) via modulation of mitochondrial complex I activity. Activation of AMPK results in both acute responses and chronic adaptations, which serve to restore energy homeostasis. Metformin is thought to elicit its beneficial effects on maintenance of glucose homeostasis primarily though impacting glucose and fat metabolism in the liver. Given the commonalities in their mechanisms of action and that R118 also improves glucose homeostasis in a murine model of T2D, the effects of both R118 and metformin on metabolic pathways in vivo were compared in order to determine whether R118 elicits its beneficial effects through similar mechanisms.
Intermittent claudication is a form of exercise intolerance characterized by muscle pain during walking in patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD). Endothelial cell and muscle dysfunction are thought to be important contributors to the etiology of this disease, but a lack of preclinical models that incorporate these elements and measure exercise performance as a primary end point has slowed progress in finding new treatment options for these patients. We sought to develop an animal model of peripheral vascular insufficiency in which microvascular dysfunction and exercise intolerance were defining features. We further set out to determine if pharmacological activation of 5'-AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) might counteract any of these functional deficits. Mice aged on a high-fat diet demonstrate many functional and molecular characteristics of PAD, including the sequential development of peripheral vascular insufficiency, increased muscle fatigability, and progressive exercise intolerance. These changes occur gradually and are associated with alterations in nitric oxide bioavailability. Treatment of animals with an AMPK activator, R118, increased voluntary wheel running activity, decreased muscle fatigability, and prevented the progressive decrease in treadmill exercise capacity. These functional performance benefits were accompanied by improved mitochondrial function, the normalization of perfusion in exercising muscle, increased nitric oxide bioavailability, and decreased circulating levels of the endogenous endothelial nitric oxide synthase inhibitor asymmetric dimethylarginine. These data suggest that aged, obese mice represent a novel model for studying exercise intolerance associated with peripheral vascular insufficiency, and pharmacological activation of AMPK may be a suitable treatment for intermittent claudication associated with PAD.
Modulation of mitochondrial function through inhibiting respiratory complex I activates a key sensor of cellular energy status, the 5-AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). Activation of AMPK results in the mobilization of nutrient uptake and catabolism for mitochondrial ATP generation to restore energy homeostasis. How these nutrient pathways are affected in the presence of a potent modulator of mitochondrial function and the role of AMPK activation in these effects remain unclear. We have identified a molecule, named R419, that activates AMPK in vitro via complex I inhibition at much lower concentrations than metformin (IC50 100 nM vs 27 mM, respectively). R419 potently increased myocyte glucose uptake that was dependent on AMPK activation, while its ability to suppress hepatic glucose production in vitro was not. In addition, R419 treatment of mouse primary hepatocytes increased fatty acid oxidation and inhibited lipogenesis in an AMPK-dependent fashion. We have performed an extensive metabolic characterization of its effects in the db/db mouse diabetes model. In vivo metabolite profiling of R419-treated db/db mice showed a clear upregulation of fatty acid oxidation and catabolism of branched chain amino acids. Additionally, analyses performed using both (13)C-palmitate and (13)C-glucose tracers revealed that R419 induces complete oxidation of both glucose and palmitate to CO2 in skeletal muscle, liver, and adipose tissue, confirming that the compound increases mitochondrial function in vivo. Taken together, our results show that R419 is a potent inhibitor of complex I and modulates mitochondrial function in vitro and in diabetic animals in vivo. R419 may serve as a valuable molecular tool for investigating the impact of modulating mitochondrial function on nutrient metabolism in multiple tissues and on glucose and lipid homeostasis in diabetic animal models.
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