Mechanism of VEGF expression by high glucose in proximal tubule epithelial cells

Denis Feliers, Balakuntalam S. Kasinath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Angiotensin II (Ang II) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) are important mediators of kidney injury in diabetes. VEGF expression is increased in proximal tubules of mice with type 1 diabetes. In mouse proximal tubular epithelial cells (MCT) cultured with 30 mM glucose (HG) for 24 h, VEGF expression is increased at the protein and the mRNA level, suggesting a transcriptional mechanism. HG stimulation of VEGF synthesis is prevented by captopril, an inhibitor of angiotensin-converting enzyme, and, by losartan, a specific antagonist of angiotensin type 1 receptor (AT1), suggesting that VEGF synthesis is mediated by Ang II. Synthesis of angiotensinogen (AGT), a precursor of angiotensin II, is increased in MCTs cultured in HG. Although synthesis of renin and ACE is not affected by HG, their activity is increased in the conditioned medium. Concentrations of Ang I and Ang II are also increased in conditioned medium from HG-treated MCTs and captopril prevents increased Ang II, but not Ang I, synthesis. Finally, AT1 is activated in MCTs treated with HG, and its activation is prevented by captopril and losartan. The ERK pathway is activated by HG within minutes of stimulation and lasting for up to 24 h. The initial phase of ERK activation is due to HG itself and leads to AGT upregulation and the sustained phase is mediated for the most part by Ang II-activated AT1 receptor and leads to increased VEGF synthesis. These data show that: (1) HG increases AGT synthesis and activation of renin and ACE by MCTs, leading to local production of Ang I and Ang II. (2) Ang II activates endogenous AT1 and stimulates synthesis of VEGF. (3) HG activation of ERK starts within minutes and lasts for up to 24 h. Early ERK activation is involved in AGT upregulation and sustained ERK activation, mediated via AT1, is responsible for VEGF synthesis. In conclusion, our study shows that MCTs express an endogenous renin-angiotensin system that is activated by high glucose to stimulate the synthesis of VEGF, through activation of the ERK pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-142
Number of pages7
JournalMolecular and Cellular Endocrinology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 15 2010


  • Epithelial cells
  • Glucose
  • Kidney
  • Renin-angiotensin system
  • VEGF

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology


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