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Cardiovascular biology of the incretin system

John R Ussher, Daniel J Drucker
Endocrine Reviews 2012, 33 (2): 187-215
22323472
Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) is an incretin hormone that enhances glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and exerts direct and indirect actions on the cardiovascular system. GLP-1 and its related incretin hormone, glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide, are rapidly inactivated by the enzyme dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP-4), a key determinant of incretin bioactivity. Two classes of medications that enhance incretin action, GLP-1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonists and DPP-4 inhibitors, are used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus. We review herein the cardiovascular biology of GLP-1R agonists and DPP-4 inhibitors, including direct and indirect effects on cardiomyocytes, blood vessels, adipocytes, the control of blood pressure, and postprandial lipoprotein secretion. Both GLP-1R activation and DPP-4 inhibition exert multiple cardioprotective actions in preclinical models of cardiovascular dysfunction, and short-term studies in human subjects appear to demonstrate modest yet beneficial actions on cardiac function in subjects with ischemic heart disease. Incretin-based agents control body weight, improve glycemic control with a low risk of hypoglycemia, decrease blood pressure, inhibit the secretion of intestinal chylomicrons, and reduce inflammation in preclinical studies. Nevertheless, there is limited information on the cardiovascular actions of these agents in patients with diabetes and established cardiovascular disease. Hence, a more complete understanding of the cardiovascular risk to benefit ratio of incretin-based therapies will require completion of long-term cardiovascular outcome studies currently underway in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.

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