Diabetic nephropathy (DN) is one of the major complications of diabetes mellitus (DM). This study aimed to explore the effects of corosolic acid (CA) on the renal damage of DM and the mechanisms behind these effects. The renoprotective effect of CA was investigated in type 1 diabetic rats and db/db mice. The kidneys and glomerular mesangial cells (GMCs) were used to study the proliferation of GMCs by immunostaining and MTT assay. Further immunoblotting, siRNA, qPCR analysis, and detecting of NADPH oxidase activity and reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation were performed to explore relevant molecular mechanisms. In CA-treated diabetic animals, diabetes-induced albuminuria, increased serum creatinine and blood urea nitrogen were significantly attenuated, and glomerular hypertrophy, mesangial expansion and fibrosis were ameliorated. Furthermore, CA significantly inhibited proliferation of GMCs and phosphorylation of ERK1/2 and p38 MAPK in both diabetic animals and high glucose (HG)-induced GMCs. CA also normalized Δψm and inhibited HG-induced NADPH oxidase activity, ROS generation and NOX4, NOX2, p22(phox) and p47(phox) expression. More importantly, CA inhibited GMC proliferation mediated by NADPH/ERK1/2 and p38 MAPK signaling pathways. These findings suggest that CA exert the protective effect on DN by anti-proliferation resulted from inhibition of p38 MAPK- and NADPH-mediated inactivation of ERK1/2
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