Ac-SDKP (N-acetyl-seryl-aspartyl-lysyl-proline) is a physiological tetrapeptide hydrolysed by ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme). In experimental models of hypertension, Ac-SDKP has antifibrotic effects in the heart; however, the role of Ac-SDKP in diabetic cardiomyopathy is currently unknown. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effect of Ac-SDKP on cardiac systolic and diastolic function, and interstitial and perivascular fibrosis in the heart of diabetic rats. Diabetes was induced in 55 Sprague–Dawley rats by streptozotocin injection. Control rats (n=18) underwent only buffer injection. Out of the 55 diabetic rats, 19 were chronically treated with insulin and 13 with the ACEI (ACE inhibitor) ramipril (3 mg·kg−1 of body weight·day−1). At 2 months after the onset of diabetes, Ac-SDKP (1 mg·kg−1 of body weight·day−1) was administered by osmotic minipumps for 8 weeks to eight control rats, 13 diabetic rats, seven diabetic rats treated with ramipril and nine insulin-treated diabetic rats. Diabetic rats had a significant increase in blood glucose levels. Left ventricular interstitial and perivascular fibrosis, and TGF-β1 (transforming growth factor-β1) protein levels were increased in diabetic rats, but not in insulin-treated diabetic rats and ramipril-treated diabetic rats, compared with control rats. Ac-SDKP administration significantly reduced left ventricular interstitial and perivascular fibrosis in diabetic rats and in diabetic rats treated with ramipril. This was accompanied by a significant reduction in active TGF-β1 and phospho-Smad2/3 protein levels in myocardial tissue of diabetic rats. Echocardiography showed that diabetes was associated with increased end-systolic diameters, and depressed global systolic function and diastolic dysfunction, as assessed by transmitral Doppler velocity profile. These changes were completely reversed by insulin or ramipril treatment. Ac-SDKP treatment partially restored diastolic function in diabetic rats. In conclusion, Ac-SDKP administration in diabetic rats reduces left ventricular interstitial and perivascular fibrosis, active TGF-β1 and phospho-Smad2/3 levels, and improves diastolic function. Taken together, these findings suggest that, by inhibiting the TGF-β/Smad pathway, Ac-SDKP protects against the development of diabetic cardiomyopathy.

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