Thiazolidinedione (TZD) compounds are widely used as oral hypoglycemic agents. Herein, we provide evidence showing that troglitazone, one of the TZD compounds, is able to prevent glomerular dysfunction in diabetic rats through a novel mechanism independent of its insulin-sensitizing action. We examined the effect of troglitazone on functional and biochemical parameters of glomeruli in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Troglitazone was able to prevent not only diabetic glomerular hyperfiltration and albuminuria, but an increase in mRNA expression of extracellular matrix proteins and transforming growth factor-beta1 in glomeruli of diabetic rats, without changing blood glucose levels. Biochemically, an increase in diacylglycerol (DAG) contents and the activation of the protein kinase C (PKC)-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway in glomeruli of diabetic rats were abrogated by troglitazone. The activation of DAG-PKC-ERK pathways in vitro in mesangial cells cultured under high glucose conditions was also inhibited by troglitazone. Troglitazone enhanced the activities of DAG kinase, which could metabolize DAG to phosphatidic acid, in both glomeruli of diabetic rats and mesangial cells cultured under high glucose conditions. Surprisingly, pioglitazone, another TZD compound without alpha-tocopherol moiety in its structure, also prevented the activation of the DAG-PKC pathway and activated DAG kinase in mesangial cells cultured under high glucose conditions. These results may identify the TZDs as possible new therapeutic agents for diabetic nephropathy that prevent glomerular dysfunction through the inhibition of the DAG-PKC-ERK pathway.

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