Background: The renin-angiotensin system (RAS) and the accumulation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) have been implicated in the pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy. Whether there is a functional interaction between the RAS and AGEs in diabetic nephropathy is not known. In this study, we investigated whether AGEs could activate autocrine angiotensin II (Ang II) signaling and subsequently induce transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta)-Smad signaling in cultured rat mesangial cells.
Methods: The intracellular formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) was detected using the fluorescent probe CM-H2DCFDA. Ang II was measured by radioimmunoassay. TGF-beta released into media was quantitatively analyzed in an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Smad2, p27(Kip1) (p27), fibronectin, and receptor for AGEs (RAGE) protein expression were determined by Western blot analysis. TGF-beta-inducible promoter activity was analyzed by a luciferase assay. DNA synthesis was evaluated by 5-bomo-2'-deoxyuridine (BrdU) incorporation and de novo protein synthesis was determined by [3H]leucine incorporation.
Results: AGEs increased intracellular ROS generation in mesangial cells, and this effect was significantly inhibited by an antiserum against RAGE. AGEs also were found to stimulate Ang II production in a time- and dose-dependent manner, which was completely prevented by an antioxidant, N-acetylcysteine (NAC). AGE-induced TGF-beta overproduction was completely blocked by candesartan, an Ang II type 1 receptor (AT1R) antagonist. Both candesartan and neutralizing antibody against TGF-beta completely prevented AGEs-induced Smad2 phosphorylation and TGF-beta-inducible promoter activity. Furthermore, AGEs were found to inhibit DNA synthesis and to stimulate de novo protein synthesis and fibronectin production in association with up-regulation of p27. All of these phenomena were completely prevented by candesartan or a polyclonal antibody against TGF-beta.
Conclusion: The present study suggests that AGE-RAGE-mediated ROS generation activates TGF-beta-Smad signaling and subsequently induces mesangial cell hypertrophy and fibronectin synthesis by autocrine production of Ang II. This pathway may provide an important link between metabolic and haemodynamic factors in promoting the development and progression of diabetic nephropathy.