Cellular mechanisms and treatment of diabetes vascular complications converge on reactive oxygen species

Curr Hypertens Rep. 2005 Apr;7(2):148-54. doi: 10.1007/s11906-005-0090-4.


High glucose activates a myriad of signaling and gene expression pathways in non-insulin-dependent target cells causing diabetes complications. One of the earliest responses to high glucose by vascular cells is the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that act directly on intracellular proteins and DNA, or indirectly as second messengers, transforming these cells into disease phenotypes. ROS are produced by mitochondria and/or NADPH oxidase in all target cells exposed to high glucose studied to date. Reports using cell cultures and diabetic animal models indicate that inhibition of ROS generation prevents the amplification of signaling and gene expression that are implicated in vascular complications. These models convincingly demonstrate that maneuvers preventing ROS production attenuate or completely abrogate early micro- and macrovascular end-organ damage of diabetes, including nephropathy, retinopathy, and large-vessel atherosclerosis. Attention now turns to the development of more effective antioxidants that could be used in clinical trials in the prevention and treatment of diabetes complications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Vessels / metabolism
  • Blood Vessels / pathology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA / genetics
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / drug therapy*
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / genetics
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / metabolism
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Gene Expression / physiology
  • Humans
  • Indoles / therapeutic use*
  • Intracellular Space / metabolism
  • Intracellular Space / ultrastructure
  • Maleimides / therapeutic use*
  • Protein Kinase C / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Protein Kinase C beta
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Indoles
  • Maleimides
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • ruboxistaurin
  • DNA
  • Protein Kinase C
  • Protein Kinase C beta