Increased renal clearance of thiamine (vitamin B(1)) occurs in experimental and clinical diabetes producing thiamine insufficiency mediated by impaired tubular re-uptake and linked to the development of diabetic nephropathy. We studied the mechanism of impaired renal re-uptake of thiamine in diabetes. Expression of thiamine transporter proteins THTR-1 and THTR-2 in normal human kidney sections examined by immunohistochemistry showed intense polarised staining of the apical, luminal membranes in proximal tubules for THTR-1 and THTR-2 of the cortex and uniform, diffuse staining throughout cells of the collecting duct for THTR-1 and THTR-2 of the medulla. Human primary proximal tubule epithelial cells were incubated with low and high glucose concentration, 5 and 26 mmol/l, respectively. In high glucose concentration there was decreased expression of THTR-1 and THTR-2 (transporter mRNA: -76% and -53% respectively, p<0.001; transporter protein -77% and -83% respectively, p<0.05), concomitant with decreased expression of transcription factor specificity protein-1. High glucose concentration also produced a 37% decrease in apical to basolateral transport of thiamine transport across cell monolayers. Intensification of glycemic control corrected increased fractional excretion of thiamine in experimental diabetes. We conclude that glucose-induced decreased expression of thiamine transporters in the tubular epithelium may mediate renal mishandling of thiamine in diabetes. This is a novel mechanism of thiamine insufficiency linked to diabetic nephropathy.