Proximal Tubule mTORC1 Is a Central Player in the Pathophysiology of Diabetic Nephropathy and Its Correction by SGLT2 Inhibitors

Cell Rep. 2020 Jul 28;32(4):107954. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2020.107954.


Diabetic kidney disease (DKD) increases the risk for mortality and is the leading cause of end-stage renal disease. Treatment with sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 inhibitors (SGLT2i) attenuates the progression of DKD, especially in patients with advanced kidney disease. Herein, we show that in diabetes, mTORC1 activity is increased in renal proximal tubule cells (RPTCs) along with enhanced tubule-interstitial fibrosis; this is prevented by SGLT2i. Constitutive activation of mTORC1 in RPTCs induces renal fibrosis and failure and abolishes the renal-protective effects of SGLT2i in diabetes. On the contrary, partial inhibition of mTORC1 in RPTCs prevents fibrosis and the decline in renal function. Stimulation of mTORC1 in RPTCs turns on a pro-fibrotic program in the renal cortex, whereas its inhibition in diabetes reverses the alterations in gene expression. We suggest that RPTC mTORC1 is a critical node that mediates kidney dysfunction in diabetes and the protective effects of SGLT2i by regulating fibrogenesis.

Keywords: SGLT2 inhibitors; complications; diabetes; diabetic kidney disease; fibrosis; mTOR; signal transduction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / etiology
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / metabolism
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / drug effects
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / metabolism
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1 / metabolism*
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1 / physiology
  • Mice
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 Inhibitors / metabolism
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Swine


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 Inhibitors
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1