Circulating NEFAs (non-esterified fatty acids) from adipose tissue lipolysis lead to endothelial dysfunction and insulin resistance in patients with the metabolic syndrome or Type 2 diabetes mellitus. The aim of the present study was to test the hypothesis that DHP (dihydropyridine) CCBs (calcium channel blockers) prevent NEFA-induced endothelial and haemorheological dysfunction independently of their antihypertensive properties. Using a double-blind cross-over study design, nifedipine, amlodipine, diltiazem or placebo were administered to eight healthy subjects for 2 days before each study day. On the study days, the following were assessed before and after the infusion of lipid and heparin to raise serum NEFAs: endothelial function, by measuring FBF (forearm blood flow) responses to ACh (acetylcholine); leucocyte activation, by ex vivo measurement of plasma MPO (myeloperoxidase) levels, adherent leucocyte numbers and whole blood transit time through microchannels; and oxidative stress, by determining plasma levels of d-ROMs (derivatives of reactive oxygen metabolites). Effects of the CCBs on NF-κB (nuclear factor κB) p65 phospholylation stimulated by NEFAs were assessed in cultured monocytic cells in vitro. Elevated NEFAs reduced the responses to ACh and significantly increased whole blood transit time, adherent leucocyte numbers and d-ROMs. Nifedipine and amlodipine, but not diltiazem, prevented NEFA-induced endothelial dysfunction, leucocyte activation and enhancement of oxidative stress without affecting BP (blood pressure), whereas all these drugs prevented NEFA-induced p65 activation in vitro. These results suggest that DHP CCBs, independent of their antihypertensive properties in humans, prevent NEFA-induced endothelial and haemorheological dysfunction through inhibition of NEFA-induced leucocyte activation, although the sensitivity to drugs of leucocyte Ca2+ channels may differ among cells.

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