Recent in vitro and in vivo studies suggested that the increased flux of glucose through the hexosamine biosynthetic pathway may contribute to glucoseinduced insulin resistance and to the induction of the synthesis of growth factors. Because glutamine:fructose-6-phosphate amidotransferase (GFAT) catalyzes the first and rate-limiting step in the formation of hexosamine products, this enzyme is the key regulator in this pathway and is therefore possibly also involved in the alterations occurring in preclinical or manifest diabetic patients. To study the expression of GFAT in human tissues, we produced and characterized a peptic antiserum specifically recognizing GFAT protein and a riboprobe for the detection of GFAT mRNA. Immunohistochemical and nonradioactive in situ hybridization analysis revealed high levels of expression of GFAT protein and mRNA in adipocytes and skeletal muscle. Furthermore, a marked GFAT expression was found in vascular smooth muscle cells with unexpectedly high variability and lower levels in other cells, e.g., peripheral nerve sheath cells or endocrine-active cells, including the pancreatic islet cell. GFAT protein expression was below detection level in endothelium, osteocytes, lymphocytes, granulocytes, and in most quiescent fibroblasts. In renal tissue, GFAT was expressed in tubular epithelial cells, while glomerular cells remained essentially unstained. Renal sections obtained from patients with diabetic nephropathy showed significant GFAT expression in some glomerular epithelial and mesangial cells, indicating that GFAT expression may be induced by manifest diabetes. Our data indicate that GFAT is expressed in most tissues involved in the development of diabetic late complications. Furthermore, the results suggest that GFAT gene expression is highly regulated

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