Diabetic nephropathy (DN) is accompanied by characteristic changes in the glomerulus, but little is known about the effect of diabetes on parietal epithelial cells (PECs). In this study, a descriptive analysis of PECs was undertaken in diabetic db/db mice and in diabetic patients. PEC hypertrophy was significantly more prominent in diabetic mice than in nondiabetic mice, and this was evident even at the early stage. Additionally, the number of vacuoles in PECs was markedly increased in diabetic mice, suggesting the presence of cellular injury in PECs in DN. Although rare, binuclear cells were observed in mice with early diabetes. In cultured PECs, a high glucose condition, compared with normal glucose condition, induced cellular hypertrophy and apoptosis. Flow cytometry showed that some PECs in the G0 phase reentered the cell cycle but got arrested in the S phase. Finally, in human diabetic subjects, hypertrophy and vacuolization were observed in the PECs. Our data showed that PECs undergo substantial changes in DN and may participate in rearrangement for differentiation into podocytes.
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