Engulfment and cell motility protein 1 potentiates diabetic cardiomyopathy via Rac-dependent and Rac-independent ROS production

Faculty Publications
JCI Insight
  • Ben Bahr, Biotechnology Research and Training Center, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke
  • Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Department of Surgery, Division of Vascular Surgery, and Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Engulfment and cell motility protein 1 (ELMO1) is part of a guanine nucleotide exchange factor for Ras-related C3 botulinum toxin substrate (Rac), and ELMO1 polymorphisms were identified to be associated with diabetic nephropathy in genome-wide association studies. We generated a set of Akita Ins2C96Y diabetic mice having 5 graded cardiac mRNA levels of ELMO1 from 30% to 200% of normal and found that severe dilated cardiomyopathy develops in ELMO1-hypermorphic mice independent of renal function at age 16 weeks, whereas ELMO1-hypomorphic mice were completely protected. As ELMO1 expression increased, reactive oxygen species indicators, dissociation of the intercalated disc, mitochondrial fragmentation/dysfunction, cleaved caspase-3 levels, and actin polymerization increased in hearts from Akita mice. Cardiomyocyte-specific overexpression in otherwise ELMO1-hypomorphic Akita mice was sufficient to promote cardiomyopathy. Cardiac Rac1 activity was positively correlated with the ELMO1 levels, and oral administration of a pan-Rac inhibitor, EHT1864, partially mitigated cardiomyopathy of the ELMO1 hypermorphs. Disrupting Nox4, a Rac-independent NADPH oxidase, also partially mitigated it. In contrast, a pan-NADPH oxidase inhibitor, VAS3947, markedly prevented cardiomyopathy. Our data demonstrate that in diabetes mellitus ELMO1 is the “rate-limiting” factor of reactive oxygen species production via both Rac-dependent and Rac-independent NADPH oxidases, which in turn trigger cellular signaling cascades toward cardiomyopathy.

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