Previous studies revealed that exposure of mesangial cells to high glucose concentration induces the production of matrix proteins mediated by TGF-beta1. We tested if structural analogues of D-glucose may mimic the high glucose effect and found that D-glucosamine was strikingly more potent than D-glucose itself in enhancing the production of TGF-beta protein and subsequent production of the matrix components heparan sulfate proteoglycan and fibronectin in a time- and dose-dependent manner. D-Glucosamine also promoted conversion of latent TGF-beta to the active form. Therefore, we suggested that the hexosamine biosynthetic pathway (the key enzyme of which is glutamine:fructose-6-phosphate amidotransferase [GFAT]) contributes to the high glucose-induced TGF-beta1 production. Inhibition of GFAT by the substrate analogue azaserine or by inhibition of GFAT protein synthesis with antisense oligonucleotide prevented the high glucose-induced increase in cellular glucosamine metabolites and TGF-beta1 expression and bioactivity and subsequent effects on mesangial cell proliferation and matrix production. Overall, our study indicates that the flux of glucose metabolism through the GFAT catalyzed hexosamine biosynthetic pathway is involved in the glucose-induced mesangial production of TGF-beta leading to increased matrix production.