Autophagy: emerging therapeutic target for diabetic nephropathy

Semin Nephrol. 2014 Jan;34(1):9-16. doi: 10.1016/j.semnephrol.2013.11.003. Epub 2013 Nov 21.


Autophagy is a major catabolic pathway by which mammalian cells degrade and recycle macromolecules and organelles. It plays a critical role in removing protein aggregates, as well as damaged or excess organelles, to maintain intracellular homeostasis and to keep cells healthy. The accumulation of damaged proteins and organelles induced by hyperglycemia and other metabolic alterations is strongly associated with the development of diabetic nephropathy. Autophagy is up-regulated under conditions of calorie restriction and environmental stress, such as oxidative stress and hypoxia in proximal tubular cells, and occurs even under normal conditions in podocytes. These findings have led to our hypothesis that autophagy is involved in the pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy, a hypothesis increasingly supported by experimental evidence. To date, however, the exact role of autophagy in diabetic nephropathy has not been fully revealed. This article therefore reviews recent findings and provides perspectives on the involvement of autophagy in diabetic nephropathy.

Keywords: AMPK; Autophagy; diabetic nephropathy; mTORC1; proteinuria.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy / physiology*
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / cytology
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1
  • Multiprotein Complexes / physiology
  • Podocytes / physiology
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / physiology


  • Multiprotein Complexes
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases