Rapamycin prevents early steps of the development of diabetic nephropathy in rats

Am J Nephrol. 2007;27(5):495-502. doi: 10.1159/000106782. Epub 2007 Jul 20.


Background/aims: Recent studies suggested the involvement of the Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway in the pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy. The effect of mTOR blockade by rapamycin in diabetic nephropathy was investigated, but in vivo study of rapamycin treatment in the course of early diabetes is still insufficient. This study was designed to determine the therapeutic effects of rapamycin on diabetic nephropathy at an early stage.

Methods: Diabetes was induced in Sprague-Dawley rats with streptozotocin, and rapamycin (1 mg/kg) was administered by daily gavage for 4 weeks. Renal structural changes and some factors involved in the early pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy were tested. The activation level of the Akt/mTOR pathway was also determined.

Results: Rapamycin treatment reduced albuminuria, glomerular enlargement, glomerular basement membrane thickening, renal macrophage recruitment, and levels of renal mRNA expression of proliferating cell nuclear antigen, transforming growth factor-beta1, vascular endothelial growth factor, and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 without change in blood glucose level and blood pressure in experimental diabetic rats. In addition, treatment with rapamycin also down-regulated the enhanced levels of renal p-Akt, phospho-p70S6 kinase, and phospho-ribosomal S6 protein in diabetic rats.

Conclusions: Rapamycin treatment can prevent the early renal structural changes of diabetes in experimental rats, and thus halt the early steps of the development of diabetic nephropathy. mTOR blockade might be beneficial for the treatment of diabetic nephropathy.

MeSH terms

  • Albuminuria / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / pathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / urine
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / prevention & control*
  • Glomerular Basement Membrane / drug effects
  • Glomerular Basement Membrane / pathology
  • Hypertrophy
  • Kidney / drug effects
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Kidney Glomerulus / drug effects
  • Kidney Glomerulus / pathology
  • Male
  • Protein Kinases / drug effects
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Sirolimus / pharmacology*
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Protein Kinases
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Sirolimus