The pathogenic role of the renal proximal tubular cell in diabetic nephropathy

Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2012 Aug;27(8):3049-56. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfs260. Epub 2012 Jun 25.


A growing body of evidence indicates that the renal proximal tubular epithelial cell (PTEC) plays an important role in the pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy (DN). Microalbuminuria that intensifies over time to overt proteinuria, a hallmark of DN, is already known to activate the PTEC to induce tubulointerstitial inflammation. In addition to proteins, a number of diabetic substrates including high glucose per se, advanced glycation end-products and their carbonyl intermediates, angiotensin II, and ultrafiltered growth factors activate a number of signaling pathways including nuclear factor kappa B, protein kinase C, extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2, p38, signal transducer and activator of transcription-1 and the generation of reactive oxygen species, to culminate in tubular cell hypertrophy and the accumulation in the interstitium of a repertoire of chemokines, cytokines, growth factors and adhesion molecules capable of orchestrating further inflammation and fibrosis. More recently, the kallikrein-kinin system (KKS) and toll-like receptors (TLRs) in PTECs have been implicated in this process. While in vitro data suggest that the KKS contributes to the progression of DN, there are conflicting in vivo results on its precise role, which may in part be strain-dependent. On the other hand, there are both in vitro and in vivo data to suggest a role for both TLR2 and TLR4 in DN. In this review, we offer a critical appraisal of the events linking the participation of the PTEC to the pathogenesis of DN, which we believe may be collectively termed diabetic tubulopathy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / etiology*
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / pathology*
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / physiopathology
  • Fibrosis
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Kallikrein-Kinin System / physiology
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / pathology*
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / physiopathology
  • Mice
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Signal Transduction
  • Toll-Like Receptors / metabolism


  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Glucose