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Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2009 Mar;296(3):F614-21. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.90500.2008. Epub 2008 Dec 17.

C-peptide reverses TGF-beta1-induced changes in renal proximal tubular cells: implications for treatment of diabetic nephropathy.

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Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, University of Leicester School of Medicine, Leicester, United Kingdom.


The crucial pathology underlying progressive chronic kidney disease in diabetes is tubulointerstitial fibrosis. Central to this process is epithelial-mesenchymal transformation (EMT) of proximal tubular epithelial cells driven by maladaptive transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1) signaling. Novel signaling roles for C-peptide have recently been discovered with evidence emerging that C-peptide may mitigate microvascular complications of diabetes. We studied the potential for C-peptide to interrupt injurious TGF-beta1 signaling pathways and thus block development of EMT in HK2 human kidney proximal tubular cells. Cells were incubated with TGF-beta1 either alone or with C-peptide in low or high glucose. Changes in cell morphology, TGF-beta1 receptor expression, vimentin, E-cadherin, and phosphorylated Smads were assessed. Luciferase reporters were used to assess Smad activity. The cytoskeleton was visualized by TRITC-phalloidin staining. The typical TGF-beta1-stimulated, EMT-associated morphological alterations of proximal tubular cells, including increased vimentin expression, decreased E-cadherin expression, and cytoskeletal rearrangements, were prevented by C-peptide treatment. C-peptide also blocked TGF-beta1-induced upregulation of expression of both type I and type II TGF-beta1 receptors and attenuated TGF-beta1-mediated Smad phosphorylation and Smad transcriptional activity. These effects of C-peptide were inhibited by pertussis toxin. The results demonstrate that C-peptide almost completely reversed the morphological changes in PT cells induced by TGF-beta1 and suggest a role or C-peptide as a renoprotective agent in diabetic nephropathy.

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