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In diabetes, endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) produces superoxide anion rather than nitric oxide, referred to as "eNOS uncoupling," which may contribute to endothelial dysfunction, albuminuria, and diabetic nephropathy. Reduced levels of endothelium-derived tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4), an essential cofactor for eNOS, promote eNOS uncoupling. Accelerated degradation of guanosine triphosphate cyclohydrolase I (GTPCH I), the rate-limiting enzyme in BH4 biosynthesis, also occurs in diabetes, suggesting that GTPCH I may have a role in diabetic microvascular disease. Here, we crossed endothelium-dominant GTPCH I transgenic mice with Ins2(+/Akita) diabetic mice and found that endothelial overexpression of GTPCH I led to higher levels of intrarenal BH4 and lower levels of urinary albumin and reactive oxygen species compared with diabetic control mice. Furthermore, GTPCH I overexpression attenuated the hyperpermeability of macromolecules observed in diabetic control mice. In addition, we treated Ins2(+/Akita) mice with metformin, which activates AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and thereby slows the degradation of GTPCH I; despite blood glucose levels that were similar to untreated mice, those treated with metformin had significantly less albuminuria. Similarly, in vitro, treating human glomerular endothelial cells with AMPK activators attenuated glucose-induced reductions in phospho-AMPK, GTPCH I, and coupled eNOS. Taken together, these data suggest that maintenance of endothelial GTPCH I expression and the resulting improvement in BH4 biosynthesis ameliorate diabetic nephropathy.

Original publication




Journal article


J Am Soc Nephrol

Publication Date





1139 - 1150


Albuminuria, Animals, Biopterin, Cell Line, Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental, Diabetic Nephropathies, Endothelium, Vascular, GTP Cyclohydrolase, Humans, Metformin, Mice, Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III, Reactive Oxygen Species