Probing SGLT2 as a therapeutic target for diabetes: basic physiology and consequences

Diab Vasc Dis Res. 2015 Mar;12(2):78-89. doi: 10.1177/1479164114561992. Epub 2015 Jan 23.


Traditional treatments for type 1 and type 2 diabetes are often associated with side effects, including weight gain and hypoglycaemia that may offset the benefits of blood glucose lowering. The kidneys filter and reabsorb large amounts of glucose, and urine is almost free of glucose in normoglycaemia. The sodium-dependent glucose transporter (SGLT)-2 in the early proximal tubule reabsorbs the majority of filtered glucose. Remaining glucose is reabsorbed by SGLT1 in the late proximal tubule. Diabetes enhances renal glucose reabsorption by increasing the tubular glucose load and the expression of SGLT2 (as shown in mice), which maintains hyperglycaemia. Inhibitors of SGLT2 enhance urinary glucose excretion and thereby lower blood glucose levels in type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The load-dependent increase in SGLT1-mediated glucose reabsorption explains why SGLT2 inhibitors in normoglycaemic conditions enhance urinary glucose excretion to only ~50% of the filtered glucose. The role of SGLT1 in both renal and intestinal glucose reabsorption provides a rationale for the development of dual SGLT1/2 inhibitors. SGLT2 inhibitors lower blood glucose levels independent of insulin and induce pleiotropic actions that may be relevant in the context of lowering cardiovascular risk. Ongoing long-term clinical studies will determine whether SGLT2 inhibitors have a safety profile and exert cardiovascular benefits that are superior to traditional agents.

Keywords: Renal glucose reabsorption; anti-diabetic therapy; cardiovascular outcomes; kidney physiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / drug effects*
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / diagnosis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / physiopathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diagnosis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / adverse effects
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / drug effects*
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / metabolism
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / physiopathology
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Renal Elimination / drug effects
  • Renal Reabsorption / drug effects
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 1 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 1 / metabolism
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 / metabolism
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 Inhibitors*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Blood Glucose
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • SLC5A1 protein, human
  • SLC5A2 protein, human
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 1
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 Inhibitors