Sepsis is a life-threatening organ dysfunction caused by a dysregulated host response to an infection leading to systemic inflammation and endothelial barrier breakdown. The vascular-destabilizing factor Angiopoietin-2 (Angpt-2) has been implicated in these processes in humans. Here we screened in an unbiased approach FDA-approved compounds with respect to Angpt-2 suppression in endothelial cells (ECs) in vitro. We identified Flunarizine - a well-known anti-migraine calcium channel (CC) blocker - being able to diminish intracellular Angpt-2 protein in a time- and dose-dependent fashion thereby indirectly reducing the released protein. Moreover, Flunarizine protected ECs from TNFα-induced increase in Angpt-2 transcription and vascular barrier breakdown. Mechanistically, we could exclude canonical Tie2 signalling being responsible but found that three structurally distinct T-type - but not L-type - CC blockers can suppress Angpt-2. Most importantly, experimental increase in intracellular calcium abolished Flunarizine's effect. Flunarizine was also able to block the injurious increase of Angpt-2 in murine endotoxemia in vivo. This resulted in reduced pulmonary adhesion molecule expression (intercellular adhesion molecule-1) and tissue infiltration of inflammatory cells (Gr-1). Our finding could have therapeutic implications as side effects of Flunarizine are low and specific sepsis therapeutics that target the dysregulated host response are highly desirable.
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