Diabetic glomerulosclerosis is characterized by the accumulation of the matrix protein ftbronectin in the glomerular mesangium and could result from increased mesangial cell fibronectin synthesis induced by hyperglycemia. To test this hypothesis, we cultured human mesangial cells for up to 14 days in media containing normal (5 mM) or high glucose (20 to 115 mM) concentrations and assessed cellular proliferation and fibronectin synthesis. When compared to 5 mM glucose, high glucose levels significantly inhibited cellular proliferation in a dose dependent fashion, as assessed by direct cell counting and thymidine incorporation. After eight days in culture, tissue culture supernatant fibronectin levels, as assessed by ELISA, were significantly higher from cells cultured under high glucose conditions than cells exposed to normal glucose levels. After 14 days and when compared to 5 mM glucose, matrix fibronectin levels and fibronectin mRNA expression (by Northern analysis) were also increased by 20 mM glucose. To control for the osmotic effects of high glucose, mesangial cells were also cultured in the presence of 20 mM or 50 mM mannitol. Mannitol had no effect on cellular proliferation but significantly increased tissue culture supernatant fibronectin levels and fibronectin gene expression. These studies demonstrate that, in vitro, high glucose suppresses human mesangial cell proliferation and stimulates fibronectin synthesis. The increase in fibronectin synthesis may in part result from changes in osmolality induced by high glucose. These data suggest that increased mesangial cell fibronectin synthesis may play a role in the accumulation of glomerular fibronectin common to diabetic glomerulosclerosis.
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