Objective: Although an increasing number of reports suggest that physiological concentrations of C-peptide protect against the development of diabetic nephropathy, possibly through the modulation of Na-K pump activity, the intracellular pathways controlled by C-peptide are still unrecognized. C-peptide and vasopressin share similar intracellular effects including the activation of calcium influx and endothelial nitric oxide synthase. Both hormones stimulate also the activity of Na-K pump activity. Whether the activity of C-peptide is mediated by the recently identified vasopressin-activated calcium-mobilizing receptor (VACM-1) has never been previously investigated. Design and methods: To clarify this issue, we evaluated the effect of C-peptide on VACM-1 RNA (measured by semiquantitative RT-PCR) and protein expression (measured by immunoblotting) in human skin fibroblasts (where a specific binding of C-peptide was demonstrated) and in human mesangial cells, the cellular target of diabetic nephropathy. Results: C-peptide-induced activation of VACM-1 was demonstrated in fibroblasts from six healthy individuals (0.51±0.1 vs 1.48± 0.4, arbitrary units±S.E., P = 0.025). This finding was paralleled by an increased VACM-1 protein expression (5.64±1.0 vs 8.47±1.2, arbitrary units±S.E., P = 0.043). Similar results were confirmed in three independent cultures of human mesangial cells. VACM-1 activation in fibroblasts was insensitive to phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase inhibitor LY294002, but was inhibited by pertussis toxin, suggesting that activation of VACM-1 could be mediated by a G protein-coupled receptor. Conclusions: This study demonstrates for the first time that C-peptide activates VACM-1, possibly through a G protein-coupled receptor. Further studies are needed to clarify whether VACM-1 is involved in the protective effect of C-peptide against the development of diabetic nephropathy.
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