Like the renal glomerular mesangium in patients with diabetic nephropathy, glomerular mesangial cell cultures grown in 30 mM glucose accumulate increased amounts of the extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins fibronectin, laminin, and type IV collagen. This is due to increased ECM protein synthesis and mRNA levels. Similar to other cells types that are affected by the diabetic state (such as, vascular cells and peripheral nerve), mesangial cells transport glucose by an insulin-independent, facilitated diffusion transport system. Kinetic studies reveal that intracellular glucose levels may reach the ambient glucose concentrations achieved in diabetes. Growth studies reveal that glucose does not exert its effect on mesangial cell ECM accumulation by affecting cell growth, but rather it causes an increase in diacylglycerol (DAG) mass and activates protein kinase C. Agents such as phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) and the cell permeable DAG analogue, oleoyl acetyl glycerol (OAG) which activate protein kinase C also increase ECM mRNAs. These results implicate protein kinase C activation in the increased ECM accumulation observed in mesangial cell cultures grown in high glucose.