Podocytes are key cells in the glomerular filtration barrier with a major role in the development of diabetic nephropathy. Podocytes are insulin-sensitive cells and have a functionally active local renin-angiotensin system. The presence and activity of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), the main role of which is cleaving profibrotic and proinflammatory angiotensin-II into angiotensin-(1-7), have been demonstrated in podocytes. Conditionally immortalized mouse podocytes were cultured with insulin in the presence and absence of albumin. We found that insulin increases ACE2 gene and protein expression, by real-time PCR and Western blotting, respectively, and enzymatic activity within the podocyte and these increases were maintained over time. Furthermore, insulin favored an "anti-angiotensin II" regarding ACE/ACE2 gene expression balance and decreased fibronectin gene expression as a marker of fibrosis in the podocytes, all studied by real-time PCR. Similarly, insulin incubation seemed to protect podocytes from cell death, studied by a terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end-labeling assay. However, all these effects disappeared in the presence of albumin, which may mimic albuminuria, a main feature of DN pathophysiology. Our results suggest that modulation of renin-angiotensin system balance, fibrosis, and apoptosis by insulin in the podocyte may be an important factor in preventing the development and progression of diabetic kidney disease, but the presence of albuminuria seems to block these beneficial effects.
Keywords: ACE2; albumin; insulin; podocytes; renin-angiotensin system.
Copyright © 2014 the American Physiological Society.