Supplementary Material for: The Protective Effects of Κ-Opioid Receptor Stimulation in Hypoxic Pulmonary Hypertension Involve Inhibition of Autophagy Through the AMPK-MTOR Pathway

Background/Aims: In a previous study, we showed that κ-opioid receptor stimulation with the selective agonist U50,488H ameliorated hypoxic pulmonary hypertension (HPH). However, the roles that pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cell (PASMC) proliferation, apoptosis, and autophagy play in κ-opioid receptor-mediated protection against HPH are still unknown. The goal of the present study was to investigate the role of autophagy in U50,488H-induced HPH protection and the underlying mechanisms. Methods: Rats were exposed to 10% oxygen for three weeks to induce HPH. After hypoxia, the mean pulmonary arterial pressure (mPAP) and the right ventricular pressure (RVP) were measured. Cell viability was monitored using the Cell Counting Kit-8 (CCK-8) assay. Cell apoptosis was detected by flow cytometry and Western blot. Autophagy was assessed by means of the mRFP-GFP-LC3 adenovirus transfection assay and by Western blot. Results: Inhibition of autophagy by the administration of chloroquine prevented the development of HPH in the rat model, as evidenced by significantly reduced mPAP and RVP, as well as decreased autophagy. U50,488H mimicked the effects of chloroquine, and the effects of U50,488H were blocked by nor-BNI, a selective κ-opioid receptor antagonist. In vitro experiments showed that the inhibition of autophagy by chloroquine was associated with decreased proliferation and increased apoptosis of PASMCs. Under hypoxia, U50,488H also significantly inhibited autophagy, reduced proliferation and increased apoptosis of PASMCs. These effects of U50,488H were blocked by nor-BNI. Moreover, exposure to hypoxic conditions significantly increased AMPK phosphorylation and reduced mTOR phosphorylation, and these effects were abrogated by U50,488H. The effects of U50,488H on PASMC autophagy were inhibited by AICAR, a selective AMPK agonist, or by rapamycin, a selective mTOR inhibitor. Conclusion: Our data provide evidence for the first time that κ-opioid receptor stimulation protects against HPH by inhibiting PASMCs autophagy via the AMPK-mTOR pathway.