Collagen and proteoglycans are two major constituents of the extracellular matrix, and their abnormalities have been incriminated in the pathogenesis of diabetic complications. A decrease of plasma ascorbic acid has been reported in diabetes and thus may play a role in the collagen and proteoglycan abnormalities in diabetes. Ascorbic acid and glucose share structural similarity, and their metabolism may interact at the level of membrane transport and cellular action. In this study, we used a fibroblast culture system to explore this possibility. Ascorbic acid increased collagen and proteoglycan both in the culture medium and the cell layer. This stimulatory action of ascorbic acid was inhibited by the presence of glucose at a concentration of 25 mM. The effect of high glucose concentration was not mediated by inhibition of ascorbic acid uptake by fibroblasts. Insulin is able to abolish this inhibitory action of glucose on collagen production, but the precise mechanism is unclear. These results show that the high glucose concentration in diabetes can impair the action of ascorbic acid at the cellular level. This may further accentuate the problem of decreased availability of this vitamin as a result of its low plasma concentration.

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