Human proinsulin C-peptide reduces high glucose-induced proliferation and NF-κB activation in vascular smooth muscle cells

Vincenza Cifarelli, Patrizia Luppi, Hubert M. Tse, Jing He, Jon Piganelli, Massimo Trucco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Excessive proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) is one of the primary lesions in atherosclerosis development during diabetes. High glucose triggers VSMC proliferation and initiates activation of the transcription factor nuclear factor (NF)-κB. Recently, clinical studies have demonstrated that replacement therapy with C-peptide, a cleavage product of insulin, to type 1 diabetic (T1D) patients is beneficial on a variety of diabetes-associated vascular complications. However, the mechanisms underlying the beneficial activity of C-peptide on the vasculature in conditions of hyperglycemia are largely unknown. The effects of C-peptide on the proliferation of human umbilical artery smooth muscle cell (UASMC) and aortic smooth muscle cell (AoSMC) lines cultured under high glucose for 48 h were tested. To gain insights on potential intracellular signaling pathways affected by C-peptide, we analyzed NF-κB activation in VSMCs since this pathway represents a key mechanism for the accelerated vascular disease observed in diabetes. High glucose conditions (25 mmol/L) stimulated NF-κB-dependent VSMC proliferation since the addition of two NF-κB-specific inhibitors, BAY11-7082 and PDTC, prevented proliferation. C-peptide at the physiological concentrations of 0.5 and 1 nmol/L decreased high glucose-induced proliferation of VSMCs that was accompanied by decreased phosphorylation of IκB and reduced NF-κB nuclear translocation. These results suggest that in conditions of hyperglycemia C-peptide reduces proliferation of VSMCs and NF-κB nuclear translocation. In patients with T1D, physiological C-peptide levels may exert beneficial effects on the vasculature that, under high glucose conditions, is subject to progressive dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-257
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • C-Peptide
  • Diabetes
  • NF-κB
  • Proliferation
  • Smooth muscle cells


Dive into the research topics of 'Human proinsulin C-peptide reduces high glucose-induced proliferation and NF-κB activation in vascular smooth muscle cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this