Diabetic nephropathy: an insight into molecular mechanisms and emerging therapies

Expert Opin Ther Targets. 2019 Jul;23(7):579-591. doi: 10.1080/14728222.2019.1624721. Epub 2019 Jun 3.


Introduction: Diabetic kidney disease (DKD) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in diabetes and is the most common cause of proteinuric and non-proteinuric forms of end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Control of risk factors such as blood glucose and blood pressure is not always achievable or effective. Significant research efforts have attempted to understand the pathophysiology of DKD and develop new therapies. Areas covered: We review DKD pathophysiology in the context of existing and emerging therapies that affect hemodynamic and metabolic pathways. Renin-angiotensin system (RAS) inhibition has become standard care. Recent evidence for renoprotective activity of SGLT2 inhibitors and GLP-1 agonists is an exciting step forward while endothelin receptor blockade shows promise. Multiple metabolic pathways of DKD have been evaluated with varying success; including mitochondrial function, reactive oxygen species, NADPH oxidase (NOX), transcription factors (NF-B and Nrf2), advanced glycation, protein kinase C (PKC), aldose reductase, JAK-STAT, autophagy, apoptosis-signaling kinase 1 (ASK1), fibrosis and epigenetics. Expert opinion: There have been major advances in the understanding and treatment of DKD. SGLT2i and GLP-1 agonists have demonstrated renoprotection, with novel therapies under evaluation. Addressing the interaction between hemodynamic and metabolic pathways may help achieve prevention, attenuation or even reversal of DKD.

Keywords: Diabetic kidney disease; diabetic complications; diabetic nephropathy; prevention; renoprotection; therapeutic targets.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / drug effects
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / drug therapy*
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / physiopathology
  • Drug Development
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / agonists
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / etiology
  • Renin-Angiotensin System / drug effects
  • Risk Factors
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 Inhibitors / pharmacology


  • Blood Glucose
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 Inhibitors
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1