Background. Peritoneal fibrosis is a serious complication in long-term continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD) patients, but the underlying mechanism is not well understood. Since high glucose activates the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway in various kinds of cells, and because mesothelial cells are always exposed to high glucose dialysate, we examined the activity and expression of p38 MAPK members in cultured human peritoneal mesothelial cells (HPMCs) under high glucose conditions. Methods. HPMCs were isolated from omentum and subcultured. After serum restriction, HPMCs were exposed to 5.6 mmol/L glucose (low glucose), 5.6 mmol/L glucose + 34.5 mmol/L mannitol (low glucose + mannitol), or 40 mmol/L glucose (high glucose) for 3 minutes to 48 hours with or without SB203580. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and Western blot were performed to determine mRNA and protein expression, respectively. Results. p38 MAPK and cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP)-responsive element binding protein (CREB) activities and mRNA expressions were significantly increased in HPMCs exposed to high glucose compared to low glucose or low glucose + mannitol after 10 minutes and remain at higher levels to 48 hours (P < 0.05), but total p38 MAPK and CREB protein expressions did not differ. MAPK kinase 3/6 (MKK3/6) activity and mRNA expression were also higher in high glucose cells after 3 minutes (P < 0.05), and fibronectin mRNA expression was significantly increased in HPMCs exposed to high glucose after 2 hours (P < 0.05). In contrast, high glucose significantly inhibited MAPK phosphatase-1 (MKP-1) protein and mRNA expression after 10 minutes (P < 0.05). SB203580 (1 μmol/L) pretreatment for 1 hour significantly reduced high glucose-induced CREB activity and fibronectin mRNA expression by 89% and 75%, respectively (P < 0.05). Conclusion. p38 MAPK activity was increased in HPMCs exposed to high glucose, in parallel with increased MKK3/6 activity and decreased MKP-1 expression, resulting in CREB activation. This activated p38 MAPK pathway may play a role in the pathogenesis of peritoneal fibrosis.
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