Although activation of polyol pathway has been proposed as one of the etiologic factors of diabetic complications, precise mechanism of the effect of polyol accumulation is still unclear. In order to test the hypothesis that there is an association of polyol pathway with myo-inositol metabolism, we measured myo-inositol content in cultured rat glomerular mesangial cells. By exposing the cells to high concentrations of glucose, intracellular myo-inositol content was reduced from 12.39 +/- 0.64 nmol/mg protein at 0 mmol/L glucose to 6.54 +/- 0.38 nmol/mg protein at 27.5 mmol/L glucose and 4.88 +/- 0.43 nmol/mg protein at 55 mmol/L glucose. This decrease of myo-inositol content was partially prevented by co-incubation with aldose reductase inhibitor, sorbinil. To examine further the mechanism of myo-inositol depletion, myo-inositol uptake by mesangial cells was studied. Major myo-inositol uptake process was sodium-dependent, saturable, and ouabain sensitive with Vmax of 171 pmol/mg protein/20 min and Km of 33 mumol/L. Sodium-dependent myo-inositol uptake was significantly inhibited by glucose in a dose-dependent manner only when glucose was present during uptake experiment, and kinetic analysis revealed the inhibition was competitive. Aldose reductase inhibition failed to prevent inhibitory effect of glucose on myo-inositol uptake. These data suggest that myo-inositol content of glomerular mesangial cells, which is reduced by high concentrations of glucose, is maintained by two processes: a glucose-sensitive but sorbitol-insensitive process, sodium-dependent myo-inositol uptake; and a sorbitol (aldose reductase) sensitive process, myo-Inositol depletion under high glucose condition may induce dysfunction of mesangial cells seen in diabetes.