Endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) monomerization and uncoupling play crucial roles in mediating vascular dysfunction in diabetes, although the underlying mechanisms are still incompletely understood. Increasing evidence indicates that autophagic dysregulation is involved in the pathogenesis of diabetic endothelial dysfunction; however, whether autophagy regulates eNOS activity through controlling eNOS monomerization or dimerization remains elusive. In this study, autophagic flux was impaired in the endothelium of diabetic db/db mice and in human endothelial cells exposed to advanced glycation end products or oxidized low-density lipoprotein. Inhibition of autophagic flux by chloroquine or bafilomycin A1 were sufficient to induce eNOS monomerization and lower nitric oxide bioavailability by increasing mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mtROS). Restoration of autophagic flux by overexpressing transcription factor EB (TFEB), a master regulator of autophagy and lysosomal biogenesis, decreased endothelial cell oxidative stress, increased eNOS dimerization, and improved endothelium-dependent relaxations (EDRs) in db/db mouse aortas. Inhibition of mammalian target of rapamycin kinase (mTOR) increased TFEB nuclear localization, reduced mtROS accumulation, facilitated eNOS dimerization, and enhanced EDR in db/db mice. Moreover, calorie restriction also increased TFEB expression, improved autophagic flux, and restored EDR in the aortas of db/db mice. Taken together, the findings of this study reveal that mtROS-induced eNOS monomerization is closely associated with the impaired TFEB-autophagic flux axis leading to endothelial dysfunction in diabetic mice.

L.Z., C.-L.Z., and L.H. contributed equally to this work.

This article contains supplementary material online at https://doi.org/10.2337/figshare.19164119.

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