Diabetes mellitus and its complications are a public health problem. Diabetic nephropathy has become the main cause of renal failure, and furthermore is associated with a dramatic increase in cardiovascular risk. Unfortunately, the mechanisms leading to the development and progression of renal injury in diabetes are not yet fully known. There is now evidence that activated innate immunity and inflammation are relevant factors in the pathogenesis of diabetes. Furthermore, different inflammatory molecules, including pro-inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), play a critical role in the development of microvascular diabetic complications, including nephropathy. This review discusses the role of TNF-alpha as a pathogenic factor in renal injury, focusing on diabetic nephropathy, and describes potential treatment strategies based on modulation of TNF-alpha activity.