In our previous study (Diabetes 44:520–526, 1995), endothelial cells cultured in high glucose condition showed impairment of an oxidant-induced activation of the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) and a reduced supply of NADPH to the glutathione redox cycle. To gain insight into the mechanisms of this impairment, the protective effect of pyruvate was studied in human umbilical vein endothelial cells cultured in either 5.5 mmol/l glucose (normal glucose [NG] condition) or 33 mmol/l glucose (high glucose [HG] condition). Through pretreatment of cells with 0.2 mmol/l pyruvate for 5–7 days in the HG condition, glucose oxidation through the PPP and total cellular NADPH content in the presence of 0.2 mmol/l H2O2 were increased by 54 (P < 0.05) and 34%, respectively, and glutathione-dependent degradation of H2O2 in HG cells was enhanced by 41% (P < 0.01), when compared with those cells to which pyruvate was not added. The addition of pyruvate significantly reduced the fructose 1,6-bisphosphate (FDP) content and free cytoplasmic NADH/NAD ratio, estimated by increased pyruvate/lactate ratio in NG and HG cells exposed to H2O2. Furthermore, the addition of pyruvate also showed a 46% reduction (P < 0.01) of endothelial cell damage induced by H2O2 in HG cells. These results indicate that abnormalities in PPP activation and glutathione redox cycle activity induced by H2O2 in HG cells are compensated, and that the accentuated reductive stress is improved by an addition of pyruvate. These pyruvate effects are associated with protection against an oxidant-induced endothelial cell injury in the high glucose condition.

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