Adiponectin has vascular anti-inflammatory and protective effects. Although adiponectin protects against the development of albuminuria, historically, the focus has been on podocyte protection within the glomerular filtration barrier (GFB). The first barrier to albumin in the GFB is the endothelial glycocalyx (eGlx), a surface gel-like barrier covering glomerular endothelial cells (GEnCs). In diabetes, eGlx dysfunction occurs before podocyte damage; hence, we hypothesized that adiponectin could protect from eGlx damage to prevent early vascular damage in diabetic kidney disease (DKD). Globular adiponectin (gAd) activated AMPK signaling in human GEnCs through AdipoR1. It significantly reduced eGlx shedding and the TNF-α–mediated increase in syndecan-4 (SDC4) and MMP2 mRNA expression in GEnCs in vitro. It protected against increased TNF-α mRNA expression in glomeruli isolated from db/db mice and against expression of genes associated with glycocalyx shedding (namely, SDC4, MMP2, and MMP9). In addition, gAd protected against increased glomerular albumin permeability (Ps’alb) in glomeruli isolated from db/db mice when administered intraperitoneally and when applied directly to glomeruli (ex vivo). Ps’alb was inversely correlated with eGlx depth in vivo. In summary, adiponectin restored eGlx depth, which was correlated with improved glomerular barrier function, in diabetes.

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