IPO (ischaemic post-conditioning) is a promising method of alleviating myocardial IR (ischaemia-reperfusion) injury; however, IPO-mediated cardioprotection is lost in diabetic hearts via mechanisms that remain largely unclear. We hypothesized that decreased cardiac expression of DJ-1, a positive modulator of autophagy, compromises the effectiveness of IPO-induced cardioprotection in diabetic rats. Diabetic rats subjected to myocardial IR (30 min of coronary artery occlusion followed by 120 min of reperfusion) exhibited more severe myocardial injury, less cardiac autophagy, lower DJ-1 expression and AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase)/mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) pathway activity than non-diabetic rats. IPO significantly attenuated myocardial injury and up-regulated cardiac DJ-1 expression, AMPK/mTOR activity and autophagy in non-diabetic rats but not in diabetic rats. AAV9 (adeno-associated virus 9)-mediated cardiac DJ-1 overexpression as well as pretreatment with the autophagy inducer rapamycin restored IPO-induced cardioprotection in diabetic rats, an effect accompanied by AMPK/mTOR activation and autophagy up-regulation. Combining HPO (hypoxic post-conditioning) with DJ-1 overexpression markedly attenuated HR (hypoxia-reoxygenation) injury in H9c2 cells with high glucose (HG, 30 mM) exposure, accompanied by AMPK/mTOR signalling activation and autophagy up-regulation. The DJ-1 overexpression-mediated preservation of HPO-induced cardioprotection was completely inhibited by the AMPK inhibitor compound C (CC) and the autophagy inhibitor 3-MA (3-methyladenine). Thus, decreased cardiac DJ-1 expression, which results in impaired AMPK/mTOR signalling and decreased autophagy, could be a major mechanism underlying the loss of IPO-induced cardioprotection in diabetes.

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