The renal metabolism of insulin

Diabetologia. 1984 Sep;27(3):351-7. doi: 10.1007/BF00304849.


The kidney plays a pivotal role in the clearance and degradation of circulating insulin and is also an important site of insulin action. The kidney clears insulin via two distinct routes. The first route entails glomerular filtration and subsequent luminal reabsorption of insulin by proximal tubular cells by means of endocytosis. The second involves diffusion of insulin from peritubular capillaries and subsequent binding of insulin to the contraluminal membranes of tubular cells, especially those lining the distal half of the nephron. Insulin delivered to the latter sites stimulates several important processes, including reabsorption of sodium, phosphate, and glucose. In contrast, insulin delivered to proximal tubular cells is degraded to oligopeptides and amino-acids by one of two poorly delineated enzymatic pathways. One pathway probably involves the sequential action of insulin protease and either GIT or non-specific proteases; the other probably involves the sequential action of GIT and lysosomal proteases. The products of insulin degradation are reabsorbed into the peritubular capillaries, apparently via simple diffusion. Impairment of the renal clearance of insulin prolongs the half-life of circulating insulin by a number of mechanisms and often results in a decrease in the insulin requirement of diabetic patients. Much needs to be learned about these metabolic events at the subcellular level and how they are affected by disease states. Owing to the heterogeneity of cell types within the kidney and to their anatomical and functional polarity, investigation of these areas will be challenging indeed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Membrane / enzymology
  • Endocytosis
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin / urine
  • Insulysin / metabolism
  • Kidney / physiology*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / physiopathology
  • Kidney Glomerulus / physiology
  • Peptide Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Receptor, Insulin / metabolism


  • Insulin
  • Receptor, Insulin
  • Peptide Hydrolases
  • Insulysin