Glycosphingolipids promote pro-atherogenic pathways in the pathogenesis of hyperglycemia-induced accelerated atherosclerosis
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INTRODUCTION: Three out of four people with diabetes will die of cardiovascular disease. However, the molecular mechanisms by which hyperglycemia promotes atherosclerosis, the major underlying cause of cardiovascular disease, are not clear. OBJECTIVES: Three distinct models of hyperglycemia-associated accelerated atherosclerosis were used to identify commonly altered metabolites and pathways associated with the disease. METHODS: Normoglycemic apolipoprotein-E-deficient mice served as atherosclerotic control. Hyperglycemia was induced by multiple low-dose streptozotocin injections, or by introducing a point-mutation in one copy of insulin-2 gene. Glucosamine-supplemented mice, which experience accelerated atherosclerosis to a similar extent as hyperglycemia-induced models without alterations in glucose or insulin levels, were also included in the analysis. Untargeted plasma metabolomics were used to investigate hyperglycemia-associated accelerated atherosclerosis in three disease models. The effect of specific significantly altered metabolites on pro-atherogenic processes was investigated in cultured human vascular cells. RESULTS: Hyperglycemic and glucosamine-supplemented mice showed distinct metabolomic profiles compared to controls. Meta-analysis of three disease models revealed 62 similarly altered metabolite features (FDR-adjusted p < 0.05). Identification of shared metabolites revealed alterations in glycerophospholipid and sphingolipid metabolism, and pro-atherogenic processes including inflammation and oxidative stress. Post-multivariate and pathway analyses indicated that the glycosphingolipid pathway is strongly associated with hyperglycemia-induced accelerated atherosclerosis in these atherogenic mouse models. Glycosphingolipids induced oxidative stress and inflammation in cultured human vascular cells. CONCLUSION: Glycosphingolipids are strongly associated with hyperglycemia-induced accelerated atherosclerosis in three distinct models. They also promote pro-atherogenic processes in cultured human cells. These results suggest glycosphingolipid pathway may be a potential therapeutic target to block or slow atherogenesis in diabetic patients.
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