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Keywords:

  • adipose tissue;
  • antidiabetic drug;
  • cardiovascular disease;
  • exenatide;
  • GLP-1;
  • incretins;
  • lipid-lowering therapy;
  • liraglutide

Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a well-established risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). New therapeutic approaches have been developed recently based on the incretin phenomenon, such as the degradation-resistant incretin mimetic exenatide and the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analogue liraglutide, as well as the dipeptidyl dipeptidase (DPP)-4 inhibitors, such as sitagliptin, vildagliptin, saxagliptin, which increase the circulating bioactive GLP-1. GLP-1 exerts its glucose-regulatory action via stimulation of insulin secretion and glucagon suppression by a glucose-dependent way, as well as by weight loss via inhibition of gastric emptying and reduction of appetite and food intake. These actions are mediated through GLP-1 receptors (GLP-1Rs), although GLP-1R-independent pathways have been reported. Except for the pancreatic islets, GLP-1Rs are also present in several other tissues including central and peripheral nervous systems, gastrointestinal tract, heart and vasculature, suggesting a pleiotropic activity of GLP-1. Indeed, accumulating data from both animal and human studies suggest a beneficial effect of GLP-1 and its metabolites on myocardium, endothelium and vasculature, as well as potential anti-inflammatory and antiatherogenic actions. Growing lines of evidence have also confirmed these actions for exenatide and to a lesser extent for liraglutide and DPP-4 inhibitors compared with placebo or standard diabetes therapies. This suggests a potential cardioprotective effect beyond glucose control and weight loss. Whether these agents actually decrease CVD outcomes remains to be confirmed by large randomized placebo-controlled trials. This review discusses the role of GLP-1 on the cardiovascular system and addresses the impact of GLP-1-based therapies on CVD outcomes.