Diabetic nephropathy is a lethal disease that can lead to chronic kidney disease and end-stage kidney disease. Exosomes, which are nanosized extracellular vesicles, are closely involved in intercellular communication. Most importantly, exosomes play critical roles in disease occurrence and development. However, the function of exosomes in diabetic nephropathy progression has not been fully elucidated. In the present study, we determined the expression profiles and differences of lncRNAs, mRNAs, circRNAs and miRNAs in exosomes derived from human renal tubular epithelial cells with or without high glucose (HG) treatment. A total of 169 lncRNAs, 885 mRNAs, 3 circRNAs and 152 miRNAs were differentially expressed in exosomes secreted by HG-challenged HK-2 cells (HG group) compared with controls (NC group). The functions of differentially expressed mRNAs, mRNAs colocalized or coexpressed with differentially expressed lncRNAs (DElncRNAs), potential target genes of miRNAs and source genes of circRNAs were investigated by Gene Ontology (GO) and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) analysis.

According to these differentially expressed RNAs, we established an integrated circRNA-lncRNA-miRNA-mRNA regulatory network. In conclusion, our study suggested that exosomal lncRNAs, mRNAs, circRNAs and miRNAs participate in the progression of diabetic nephropathy and may be possible biomarkers and therapeutic targets in diabetic nephropathy.