The peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors, PPARα, PPARβ/δ and PPARγ, are ligand-activated transcriptional factors belonging to the nuclear receptors superfamily and they are known to play important roles in glucose and lipid metabolism. Experimental studies in animal models of metabolic diseases have also revealed that activation of PPARs protects against the vascular complications of diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction and stroke, through exerting their anti-inflammatory, anti-atherogenic and antioxidant effects. In clinical trials and post-market surveillance, agonists of PPARs have been shown to effectively prevent cardiovascular events. However, adverse effects, particularly for PPARγ agonists, are also observed with the use of investigational PPAR agonists and even some approved drugs. Further exploration of underlying mechanisms is needed to develop novel ways of PPAR activation without causing serious side effects. This article reviews the cardiovascular effects of PPARs, with emphasis on the therapeutic potential of PPAR agonists in combating metabolic vascular diseases.
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