Expansion of the mesangial matrix in diabetes occurs after prolonged exposure to the diabetic milieu. To mimic the long-term hyperglycemia of diabetes mellitus we developed tissue culture systems that might approximate the chronic state. This was accomplished in two ways: (1) by growing mesangial cells on extracellular matrix glycated and crosslinked in vitro and (2) by continuously growing cells on their own matrix on filters in elevated glucose medium (500 mg/dl) for up to eight weeks without passage. Synthesis of collagen and proteoglycans was evaluated in cells grown under these conditions. In both these situations, 3H-proline incorporation into collagenase sensitive protein and 35S incorporation into sulfated proteins were reduced compared to control cultures. Despite reduction in 35S incorporation into proteoglycans in the high glucose cultures, total glycosaminoglycan content was unchanged. However, proteoglycans generated by mesangial cells grown in elevated glucose media were of a lower negative charge than controls. In mesangial cells continuously grown on filters, the levels of messenger RNA for collagen types I and IV, biglycan and TGF-β were not different in cells grown at elevated or standard glucose concentrations for two and four weeks. We conclude that crosslinking of mesangial matrix or continuous culture of cells for prolonged periods of time in high glucose medium, which may also crosslink matrix, suppresses collagen synthesis and reduces the negative charges on matrix proteoglycans without altering mRNA levels.
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