Activation of protein kinase C (PKC) by hyperglycemia is implicated in the pathogenesis of long-term diabetic complications. Monocyte activation and transformation into macrophages is a key step in the atherosclerotic process. Therefore, in this study, we sought to determine 1) the effect of hyperglycemia on monocyte PKC activity and on the distribution of Ca2+-dependent and diacylglycerol-sensitive PKC isoforms; and 2) whether the effects on these parameters are determined by hyperglycemia per se, independent of the diabetic state. The studies were performed in 19 type 2 diabetic patients and 14 control subjects. Plasma glucose concentration was higher and insulin sensitivity lower (both P < 0.01) in diabetic patients than in control subjects. Monocytes from diabetic patients showed similar cytosol PKC activity to those from control subjects but higher membrane PKC activity (78+/-6 vs. 50+/-5 pmol x min(-1) x mg(-1) protein; P < 0.01). A direct correlation was observed between fasting plasma glucose and membrane PKC activity (r2 = 0.4008, P = 0.0001). In contrast, a reciprocal correlation was observed between membrane PKC activity and insulin sensitivity index (r2 = 0.28, P < 0.05). Using immunoblotting analysis, we found that membrane beta2, but not alpha, isoform of PKC was more abundant in monocytes from diabetic patients. In diabetic patients, when euglycemia was acutely induced, membrane PKC activity decreased by approximately 42% and beta2 isoform by approximately 15%. In two normal subjects in whom hyperglycemia was induced, membrane PKC increased from 63 and 57 to 92 and 128.6 pmol x min(-1) x mg(-1) protein, respectively. This increase was associated with an increase in the membrane isoform beta2; alpha isoform was unchanged. We conclude that 1) monocytes express the glucose-sensitive beta2 isoform of PKC; 2) the prevailing plasma glucose acutely regulates the activity of the membrane PKC and the content of membrane PKC beta2 isoform; and 3) this effect appears to be a direct effect of glucose per se, since the phenomenon was observed in normal control subjects when hyperglycemia was induced. Monocyte PKC activation may account for the accelerated atherosclerosis of patients with type 2 diabetes.

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