High glucose induces an activated state of partial epithelial-mesenchymal transition in human tubular cell cultures

Published: 23 December 2022| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/zs9p484x5w.1
, Ingrid Cifola,
, Lara Invernizzi, Chiara Meregalli, Nicola Zucchini, Guido Strada,


Tubulointerstitial fibrosis is observed in diabetic nephropathy. It is still debated whether tubular cells, undergoing epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in high glucose (HG) conditions, may contribute to interstitial fibrosis development. In this study, we investigated the phenotypic and molecular EMT-like changes and the alteration of inflammatory and fibrogenic secretome induced by HG in human primary tubular cell cultures. Taking advantage of this in vitro cell model composed of proximal and distal tubular cells, we showed that HG-treated tubular cells acquired a fibroblast-like morphology with cytoplasmic stress fibers, maintaining the expression of the epithelial markers specific of proximal and distal tubular cells. HG increased Snail1, miRNA210 and Vimentin mesenchymal markers, decreased N-cadherin expression and migration ability of primary tubular cells, while E-cadherin expression and focal adhesion distribution were not affected. Furthermore, HG treatment of tubular cells altered the inflammatory cytokine secretion creating a secretome able to enhance the proliferation and migration of fibroblasts. Our findings show that HG promotes an activated state of partial EMT in human tubular primary cells and induces a pro-inflammatory and pro-fibrogenic microenvironment, supporting the active role of tubular cells in diabetic nephropathy onset.

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University of Milano-Bicocca


School of Medicine and Surgery


Pathology, Research Article