Notoginsenoside R1 ameliorates podocyte injury in rats with diabetic nephropathy by activating the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway

Guodong Huang, Jianzhen Lv, Tongyu Li, Guoli Huai, Xiang Li, Shaowei Xiang, Longlong Wang, Zhenlin Qin, Jianli Pang, Bingyu Zou, Yi Wang
International Journal of Molecular Medicine 2016, 38 (4): 1179-89
The present study was designed to examine the protective effect of notoginsenoside R1 (NR1) on podocytes in a rat model of streptozotocin (STZ)‑induced diabetic nephropathy (DN), and to explore the mechanism responsible for NR1-induced renal protection. Diabetes was induced by a single injection of STZ, and NR1 was administered daily at a dose of 5 mg/kg (low dose), 10 mg/kg (medium) and 20 mg/kg (high) for 16 weeks in Sprague-Dawley rats. Blood glucose levels, body weight and proteinuria were measured every 4 weeks, starting on the day that the rats received NR1. Furthermore, on the day of sacrifice, blood, urine and kidneys were collected in order to assess renal function according to general parameters. Pathological staining was performed to evaluate the renal protective effect of NR1, and the expression of the key slit diaphragm proteins, namely neprhin, podocin and desmin, were evaluated. In addition, the serum levels of inflammatory cytokines [tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), tumor growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1), interleukin (IL)-1 and IL-6] as well as an anti-inflammatory cytokine (IL-10) were assessed, and the apoptosis of podocytes was quantified. Finally, the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt signaling pathway and the involvement of nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) inactivation was further analyzed. In this study, NR1 improved renal function by ameliorating histological alterations, increasing the expression of nephrin and podocin, decreasing the expression of desmin, and inhibiting both the inflammatory response as well as the apoptosis of podocytes. Furthermore, NR1 treatment increased the phosphorylation of both PI3K (p85) and Akt, indicating that activation of the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway was involved. Moreover, NR1 treatment decreased the phosphorylation of NF-κB (p65), suggesting the downregulation of NF-κB. This is the first study to the best of our knowledge, to clearly demonstrate that NR1 treatment ameliorates podocyte injury by inhibiting both inflammation and apoptosis through the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway.

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