Insulin resistance and central obesity are often associated with hypertension. The metabolic syndrome is a cluster of these common clinical disorders, and is related with an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases. A number of pro-inflammatory cytokines derived from adipose tissues have been thought to contribute to the development of insulin resistance and accelerated atherosclerosis. Among them, TNF-α has been most widely studied; it not only suppresses the insulin signaling, but also elicits vascular inflammation. Indeed, inhibition of TNF-α was found to improve insulin resistance in obese rats and reduce the progression of atherosclerosis in apolipoprotein E knockout mice, respectively. These observations demonstrate that TNF-α could play a central role in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance and accelerated atherosclerosis in the metabolic syndrome. Considering that the primary goals of treatment for hypertensive patients with the metabolic syndrome are prevention of the development of diabetes and cardiovascular events, anti-hypertensive drugs that have abilities to block the TNF-α signaling would be desirable as a first-line therapy for these patients. In the process of the search for such a unique anti-hypertensive drug, we have recently found that azelnidipine, a newly developed and commercially used long-acting dihydropyridine-based calcium antagonist (DHP), inhibited TNF-α-induced activator protein-1 activation and interleukin-8 expression in human umbilical vein endothelial cells by suppressing NADPH oxidase-mediated reactive oxygen species generation. The concentration of azelnidipine that was found effective in these in vitro-experiments is well within the therapeutic range. Since endothelial cells do not possess voltage-operated L-type calcium channels, these observations suggest that the beneficial effects of azelnidipine are not likely due to calcium channel blocking property, but due to its unique anti-oxidative ability. Furthermore, we have very recently found that serum levels of monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, a biomarker for subclinical atherosclerosis, were significantly decreased by the treatment of azelnidipine in patients with essential hypertension. In this paper, we would like to hypothesize that due to its unique TNF-α signal modulatory, anti-oxidative property, azelnidipine may be a promising DHP that targets diabetes and cardiovascular diseases in hypertensive patients with the metabolic syndrome.
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