The aim of this study was to examine the effect of tocilizumab, an interleukin-6 (IL-6) inhibitor on streptozotocin-induced diabetic nephropathy. Male Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 36) were distributed into six groups and treated for 4 weeks. Groups 1, 3, 5 received either saline, tocilizumab (2 mg/kg), or tocilizumab (8 mg/kg) injection intraperitoneally (i.p.), every 2 weeks, respectively. Groups 2, 4, 6 were rendered diabetic by a single i.p. injection of streptozotocin (65 mg/kg) and were treated as in groups 1, 3, 5, respectively. Biochemical parameters were measured in plasma, urine, and kidneys. In the untreated diabetic group, there was a significant decrease in body weight, polyuria, and increased kidney weight. There was increased urinary albumin/creatinine ratio (UACR) and N-acetyl-β-D-glucosaminidase (NAG)/creatinine ratio (UNCR). Streptozotocin also induced a significant increase in creatinine clearance. In addition, diabetes was associated with increased oxidative stress [reduced renal glutathione reductase (GR), superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase activities, and increased malondialdhyde (MDA)] and increased plasma tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and nitric oxide (NO) concentrations. Kidneys from streptozotocin-treated rats showed marked vacuolation of the proximal tubular epithelium with focal tubular necrosis and the glomeruli showing increase in mesangial cells. Tocilizumab significantly mitigated the increase in UACR and UNCR, renal MDA, plasma TNF-α, IL-6 and NO levels, and the decrease in renal SOD and catalase activities in diabetic rats. Tocilizumab did not significantly improve creatinine clearance; however, it attenuated the histopathological changes induced by streptozotocin. This study shows that tocilizumab was able to ameliorate some of the changes seen in streptozotocin-induced early diabetic nephropathy in rats. This is mainly due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidative effects.
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