Dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4) inactivates incretin hormone glucagon-like peptide-1. DPP4 inhibitors may exert beneficial effects on diabetic nephropathy (DN) independently of glycemic control; however, the mechanisms underlying are not fully understood. Here, we investigated the mechanisms of the beneficial effects of DPP4 inhibition on DN using DPP4-deficient (DPP4-def) rats and rat mesangial cells.

Blood glucose and HbA1c significantly increased by streptozotocin (STZ) and no differences were between WT-STZ and DPP4-def-STZ. The albumin level in urine decreased significantly and the albumin/creatinine ratio decreased slightly in DPP4-def-STZ. The glomerular volume in DPP4-def-STZ significantly decreased compared with that of WT-STZ. Advanced glycation end products formation, receptor for AGE (RAGE) protein expression, and its downstream inflammatory cytokines and fibrotic factors in kidney tissue, were significantly suppressed in the DPP4-def-STZ compared to the WT-STZ with increasing glyoxalase-1 (GLO-1) expression responsible for the detoxification of methylglyoxal (MGO). In vitro, exendin-4 suppressed MGO-induced AGEs production by enhancing the expression of GLO-1 and nuclear factor-erythroid 2 p45 subunit-related factor 2, resulting in decreasing pro-inflammatory cytokine levels. This effect was abolished by GLO-1 siRNA.

Our data suggest that endogenously increased GLP-1 in DPP4-deficient rats contributes to the attenuation of DN partially by regulating AGEs formation via upregulation of GLO-1 expression.