Alterations in G-protein-controlled signalling pathways (primarily pathways controlled by Gs and Gi) have been reported to occur in animal models of diabetes mellitus. We have therefore studied the effect of a long-term exposure of human umbilical vein endothelial cells to elevated concentrations of glucose on expression and function of G-protein subunits and endothelial NO synthase. Long-term incubation in high glucose (30 mM for 15 days) did not affect the levels of Giα-2, Gqα, the splice variants (long and short form) of Gsα, and the G-protein β-subunits or adenylate cyclase activity: basal, as well as isoprenaline-, forskolin- and guanosine 5´-[γ-thio]triphosphate-stimulated enzyme activities were comparable in high- and low-glucose-treated cells, thus ruling out any functional changes in the stimulatory pathway. Pretreatment of endothelial cells with pertussis toxin blocked a substantial fraction (50%) of the mitogenic response to serum factor(s) which depend(s) on functional Gi2. The sensitivity of cells cultured in high glucose was comparable with that of the paired controls maintained in normal glucose (EC50 = 3.1±0.5 and 3.3±0.4 ng/ml respectively). Similarly, we failed to detect any differences in endothelial NO synthase expression, or intracellular distribution and basal activity of the enzyme in endothelial cells cultured in high glucose. Stimulation of NO synthase in intact cells revealed a comparable response to the calcium ionophore (A23187). In contrast, stimulation with histamine (which acts via H1-receptors predominantly coupled to Gq) resulted in a significantly increased response in the cells maintained in high glucose. These data are suggestive of an altered H1-histamine receptor–Gq–phospholipase C pathway in endothelial cells cultured in high glucose concentrations, but rule out any glucose-induced functional changes in Gs- and Gi-controlled signalling pathways.

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