Background: Monocytes bind to human mesangial cells (HMC) in a co-culture model of leukocyte/ glomerular cell interactions. Since monocytic infiltration has been demonstrated in the early stages of diabetic glomerulopathy, we examined whether co-culture with myelomonocytes of the U937 cell line in media mimicking the diabetic microenvironment modulated phenotype, growth, and extracellular matrix production patterns of HMC.
Methods: HMC monolayers grown for 5 days in 5.5 mmol/l (NG) or 30 mmol/l (HG) glucose media were examined 3, 24 and 48 h after addition of U937 cells by computer-assisted image analysis/fluorescence microscopy following fixation, staining for cell adhesion, and TUNEL/propidium iodide labelling for apoptosis. As matrix components may be relevant to both phenotype of cultured HMC and monocyte adhesion, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, zymography, and ELISA were used to detect urokinase-plasminogen activator (uPa), collagen type IV (COL IV), transforming growth factor beta1 (TGF-beta1), matrix metalloproteinases (MMP), and relative inhibitors (tissue inhibitor of MMP (TIMP)) expression in co-cultures in NG/HG.
Results: U937 adhesion at 1-3 h was increased in HG (from 54.9+/-6.6 to 87.1+/-5.8% U937/HMC). Control HMC proliferating in NG supplemented with 10% fetal bovine serum had an average cross-sectional area of 9993+/-505 micro(2) with 1.2+/-0.1 hillocks/high-power field, which increased to 13 651+/- 1114 micro(2) with 0.5+/-0.2 hillocks/high-power field in HG (P<0.05). TUNEL+HMC were nearly identical (4.9+/-1.7 vs 4.2+/-0.4% in HG, P=NS). Enhanced transcription and secretion of urokinase (uPA, +656%), COL IV (+137%), TGF-beta1 (+590%) were observed in co-cultures in HG. COL IV and TGF-beta1, but not uPA, were also increased in HMC alone, exposed to HG for 5 days. MMP-2/TIMP-2 ratio was decreased while MMP-1/TIMP-1 was increased in HG co-cultures. In both NG and HG, U937 adhesion reduced HMC number and hillocks at 24 h, with constant apoptosis. The effects of U937 were no longer detectable at 48 h, when apoptosis was 2.1+/-0.6 vs 4.0+/-0.4% in HG, and cell counts returned above basal, possibly due to a delayed proliferative response.
Conclusions: High glucose medium increases U937 cell adhesion to HMC. In turn, monocytes modulate number and spatial distribution of HMC, which are also markedly affected by ambient glucose levels. These interactions may be relevant to leukocyte infiltration, mesangial expansion, and glomerulosclerosis in diabetes.