Multiple complications can ensue in the cardiovascular, renal, and nervous systems during diabetes mellitus (DM). Given that endothelial cells (ECs) are susceptible targets to elevated serum D-glucose, identification of novel cellular mechanisms that can protect ECs may foster the development of unique strategies for the prevention and treatment of DM complications. Erythropoietin (EPO) represents one of these novel strategies but the dependence of EPO upon Wnt1 and its downstream signaling in a clinically relevant model of DM with elevated D-glucose has not been elucidated. Here we show that EPO can not only maintain the integrity of EC membranes, but also prevent apoptotic nuclear DNA degradation and the externalization of membrane phosphatidylserine (PS) residues during elevated Dglucose over a 48-hour period. EPO modulates the expression of Wnt1 and utilizes Wnt1 to confer EC protection during elevated D-glucose exposure, since application of a Wnt1 neutralizing antibody, treatment with the Wnt1 antagonist DKK-1, or gene silencing of Wnt1 with Wnt1 siRNA transfection abrogates the protective capability of EPO. EPO through a novel Wnt1 dependent mechanism controls the post-translational phosphorylation of the “pro-apoptotic” forkhead member FoxO3a and blocks the trafficking of FoxO3a to the cell nucleus to prevent apoptotic demise. EPO also employs the activation of protein kinase B (Akt1) to foster phosphorylation of GSK-3β that appears required for EPO vascular protection. Through this inhibition of GSK-3β, EPO maintains β-catenin activity, allows the translocation of β- catenin from the EC cytoplasm to the nucleus through a Wnt1 pathway, and requires β-catenin for protection against elevated D-glucose since gene silencing of β-catenin eliminates the ability of EPO as well as Wnt1 to increase EC survival. Subsequently, we show that EPO requires modulation of both Wnt1 and FoxO3a to oversee mitochondrial membrane depolarization, cytochrome c release, and caspase activation during elevated D-glucose. Our studies identify critical elements of the protective cascade for EPO that rely upon modulation of Wnt1, Akt1, FoxO3a, GSK-3β, β-catenin, and mitochondrial apoptotic pathways for the development of new strategies against DM vascular complications.
Keywords: Akt1, apoptosis, β-catenin, cytokines, diabetes, endothelial, erythropoietin, growth factors, forkhead, FoxO3a, GSK-3β, oxidative stress, phosphatidylserine, protein kinase B, Wnt, cytochrome, caspase, post-translational, Foster Vascula, EPO, Novel Signaling, EC survival, DM, mitochondrial membrane, gene silencing
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