Background: Hexokinase (HK) activity is fundamentally important to cellular glucose uptake and metabolism. Phorbol esters increase both HK activity and glucose utilization in cultured mesangial cells via a protein kinase C (PKC)- and extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2)-dependent mechanism. In adult kidneys, increased HK activity has been reported in both glomerular injury and in diabetes, but the mechanisms responsible for these changes are unknown. Thrombin, a known activator of both PKC and ERK1/2, is increased in the settings of renal injury and diabetes. Thus, thrombin may contribute to the observed changes in HK activity in vivo.
Methods: Thrombin and thrombin receptor agonists were tested for the ability to increase HK activity and glucose metabolism in murine mesangial (SV40 MES 13) cells. ERK1/2 activation was also evaluated in parallel. Thrombin inhibition (hirudins), PKC depletion, Ser-Thr kinase inhibition (H-7), MEK1/2 inhibition (PD98059), pertussis toxin (PTX), and general inhibitors of transcription or translation were then tested for the ability to attenuate these effects.
Results: Thrombin (>/=0.01 U/mL) mimicked the effect of phorbol esters, increasing HK activity> 50% within 12 to 24 hours (P < 0.05). This effect was inhibited by hirudins, mimicked by thrombin receptor agonists, and accompanied by increased Glc utilization. H-7, PD98059, and general inhibitors of transcription or translation-but not PTX-prevented thrombin-induced HK activity at 24 hours. PKC depletion and PD98059 also blocked the associated phosphorylation and activation of ERK1/2.
Conclusions: Thrombin increases mesangial cell HK activity via a PTX-insensitive mechanism involving thrombin receptor activation, PKC-dependent activation of ERK1/2, and both ongoing gene transcription and de novo protein synthesis. As such, thrombin is a novel regulator of HK activity in mesangial cells and may play a role in coupling renal injury to metabolism.