In living organisms, proteins are regularly exposed to 'molecular ageing', which corresponds to a set of non-enzymatic modifications that progressively cause irreversible damage to proteins. This phenomenon is greatly amplified under pathological conditions, such as diabetes mellitus. For their survival and optimal functioning, cells have to maintain protein homeostasis, also called 'proteostasis'. This process acts to maintain a high proportion of functional and undamaged proteins. Different mechanisms are involved in proteostasis, among them degradation systems (the main intracellular proteolytic systems being proteasome and lysosomes), folding systems (including molecular chaperones), and enzymatic mechanisms of protein repair. There is growing evidence that the disruption of proteostasis may constitute a determining event in pathophysiology. The aim of this review is to demonstrate how such a dysregulation may be involved in the pathogenesis of diabetes mellitus and in the onset of its long-term complications.