Albuminuria in diabetic nephropathy is due to endothelial dysfunction, a loss of negative charges in the basement membrane, and changes a of the slit-membrane diaphragm composition. We have recently shown that protein kinase C alpha (PKCalpha)-deficient mice are protected against the development of albuminuria under diabetic conditions. We here tested the hypothesis that PKCalpha mediates the hyperglycemia-induced downregulation of the slit-diaphragm protein nephrin. After 8 weeks of streptozotocin (STZ)-induced hyperglycemia the expression of glomerular nephrin was significantly reduced. In contrast, other slit-diaphragm proteins such as podocin and CD2AP were unaltered in diabetic state. In PKCalpha-/- mice, hyperglycemia-induced downregulation of nephrin was prevented. Podocin and CD2AP remained unchanged. In addition, the nephrin messenger RNA expression was also reduced in hyperglycemic wild-type mice but remained unaltered in PKCalpha-/- mice. We postulate that the underlying mechanism of the hyperglycemia-induced regulation of various proteins of the glomerular filtration barrier is a PKCalpha-dependent regulation of the Wilms' Tumor Suppressor (WT1) which previously has been shown to act as a direct transcription factor on the nephrin promoter. Our data suggest that PKCalpha activation may be an important intracellular signaling pathway in the regulation of nephrin expression and glomerular albumin permeability in the diabetic state.
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