The tubulointerstitium in progressive diabetic kidney disease: more than an aftermath of glomerular injury?

Kidney Int. 1999 Nov;56(5):1627-37. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1755.1999.00721.x.


Although the glomerulus, particularly the mesangium, has been the focus of intense investigation in diabetes, tubulointerstitial injury is also a major feature of diabetic nephropathy and an important predictor of renal dysfunction. The renal tubule in diabetes is subject to both direct and indirect pathogenetic influences as a consequence of its position in the nephron and its resorptive function. On exposure to glucose, proximal tubular cells elaborate vasoactive hormones, including angiotensin II and injurious cytokines such as transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), as well as extracellular matrix proteins. In turn, angiotensin II may further increase TGF-beta expression in both proximal tubular and interstitial cells, thus amplifying the stimulus to fibrogenesis in the renal tubulointerstitium. In addition to these mostly direct influences, the renal tubule, particularly its proximal segment, is exposed to glomerular effluent. In the diabetic state, this includes large quantities of advanced glycation end products and glucose and, at later stages in the evolution of diabetic nephropathy, protein, all of which are factors that may induce TGF-beta expression and fibrosis. Diabetic nephropathy should therefore be viewed as a disease affecting the entire nephron. Continued exploration into tubulointerstitial disease in addition to glomerular injury in diabetes may help provide further insights into the pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy and additional targets for therapeutic intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / etiology*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Ischemia / complications
  • Kidney Glomerulus / pathology
  • Kidney Tubules / pathology*
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Sorbitol / metabolism


  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Proteins
  • Sorbitol
  • Glucose