Background: Despite the beneficial effects of type 4 dipeptidyl peptidase (DPP-4) inhibitors on glucose levels, its effects on diabetic nephropathy remain unclear.
Method: This study examined the long-term renoprotective effects of DPP-4 inhibitor linagliptin in db/db mice, a model of type 2 diabetes. Results were compared with the known beneficial effects of renin-angiotensin system blockade by enalapril. Ten-week-old male diabetic db/db mice were treated for 3 months with either vehicle (n = 10), 3 mg linagliptin/kg per day (n = 8), or 20 mg enalapril/kg per day (n = 10). Heterozygous db/m mice treated with vehicle served as healthy controls (n = 8).
Results: Neither linagliptin nor enalapril had significant effects on the parameters of glucose metabolism or blood pressure in diabetic db/db mice. However, linagliptin treatment reduced albuminuria and attenuated kidney injury. In addition, expression of podocyte marker podocalyxin was normalized. We also analysed DPP-4 expression by immunofluorescence in human kidney biopsies and detected upregulation of DPP-4 in the glomeruli of patients with diabetic nephropathy, suggesting that our findings might be of relevance for human kidney disease as well.
Conclusion: Treatment with DPP-4 inhibitor linagliptin delays the progression of diabetic nephropathy damage in a glucose-independent and blood-pressure-independent manner. The observed effects may be because of the attenuation of podocyte injury and inhibition of myofibroblast transformation.