We investigated the hypothesis that benfotiamine, a lipophilic derivative of thiamine, affects replication delay and generation of advanced glycosylation end-products (AGE) in human umbilical vein endothelial cells cultured in the presence of high glucose. Cells were grown in physiological (5.6 mM) and high (28.0 mM) concentrations of D-glucose, with and without 150 microM thiamine or benfotiamine. Cell proliferation was measured by mitochondrial dehydrogenase activity. AGE generation after 20 days was assessed fluorimetrically. Cell replication was impaired by high glucose (72.3%+/-5.1% of that in physiological glucose, p=0.001). This was corrected by the addition of either thiamine (80.6%+/-2.4%, p=0.005) or benfotiamine (87.5%+/-8.9%, p=0.006), although it not was completely normalized (p=0.001 and p=0.008, respectively) to that in physiological glucose. Increased AGE production in high glucose (159.7%+/-38.9% of fluorescence in physiological glucose, p=0.003) was reduced by thiamine (113.2%+/-16.3%, p=0.008 vs. high glucose alone) or benfotiamine (135.6%+/-49.8%, p=0.03 vs. high glucose alone) to levels similar to those observed in physiological glucose. Benfotiamine, a derivative of thiamine with better bioavailability, corrects defective replication and increased AGE generation in endothelial cells cultured in high glucose, to a similar extent as thiamine. These effects may result from normalization of accelerated glycolysis and the consequent decrease in metabolites that are extremely active in generating nonenzymatic protein glycation. The potential role of thiamine administration in the prevention or treatment of vascular complications of diabetes deserves further investigation.