Purpose of review: Lipid accumulation in nonadipose tissues is increasingly recognized to contribute to organ injury through a process termed lipotoxicity, but whether this process occurs in the kidney is still uncertain. This article briefly summarizes the normal role of lipids in renal physiology and the current evidence linking excess lipids and lipotoxicity to renal dysfunction.
Recent findings: Evidence suggesting that renal lipid accumulation and lipotoxicity may lead to kidney dysfunction has mounted significantly over recent years. Abnormal renal lipid content has been described in a number of animal models and has been successfully manipulated using pharmacologic or genetic strategies. There is some heterogeneity among studies with regard to the mechanisms, consequences, and localization of lipid accumulation in the kidney, explainable at least in part by inherent differences between animal models. The relevance of these findings for human pathophysiology remains to be established.
Summary: Current knowledge on renal lipid physiology and pathophysiology is insufficient, but provides a strong foundation and incentive for further exploration. The future holds significant challenges in this area, especially with regard to applicability of research findings to the human kidney in vivo, but also the opportunity to transform our understanding of an array of kidney disorders.