The gut-renal axis: do incretin-based agents confer renoprotection in diabetes?

Nat Rev Nephrol. 2014 Feb;10(2):88-103. doi: 10.1038/nrneph.2013.272. Epub 2013 Dec 24.


Diabetic nephropathy is the leading cause of end-stage renal disease worldwide, and is associated with a high risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Intensive control of glucose levels and blood pressure is currently the mainstay of both prevention and treatment of diabetic nephropathy. However, this strategy cannot fully prevent the development and progression of diabetic nephropathy, and an unmet need remains for additional novel therapies. The incretin-based agents--agonists of glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor (GLP-1R) and inhibitors of dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP-4), an enzyme that degrades glucagon-like peptide 1--are novel blood-glucose-lowering drugs used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Therapeutic agents from these two drug classes improve pancreatic islet function and induce extrapancreatic effects that ameliorate various phenotypic defects of T2DM that are beyond glucose control. Agonists of GLP-1R and inhibitors of DPP-4 reduce blood pressure, dyslipidaemia and inflammation, although only GLP-1R agonists decrease body weight. Both types of incretin-based agents inhibit renal tubular sodium reabsorption and decrease glomerular pressure as well as albuminuria in rodents and humans. In rodents, incretin-based therapies also prevent onset of the morphological abnormalities of diabetic nephropathy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / metabolism
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / drug therapy*
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / etiology
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Incretins / therapeutic use*


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Incretins