Metabolic reprogramming and the role of mitochondria in polycystic kidney disease

Christine Podrini, Laura Cassina, Alessandra Boletta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease (ADPKD) is a slowly progressive disease characterized by the relentless growth of renal cysts throughout the life of affected individuals. Early evidence suggested that the epithelia lining the cysts share neoplastic features, leading to the definition of PKD as a “neoplasm in disguise”. Recent work from our and other laboratories has identified a profound metabolic reprogramming in PKD, similar to the one reported in cancer and consistent with the reported increased proliferation. Multiple lines of evidence suggest that aerobic glycolysis (a Warburg-like effect) is present in the disease, along with other metabolic dysfunctions such as an increase in the pentose phosphate pathway, in glutamine anaplerosis and fatty acid biosynthesis, while fatty acid oxidation and oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) are decreased. In addition to glutamine, other amino acid-related pathways appear altered, including asparagine and arginine. The precise origin of the metabolic alterations is not entirely clear, but two hypotheses can be formulated, not mutually exclusive. First, the polycystins have been recently shown to regulate directly mitochondrial function and structure either by regulating Ca2+ uptake in mitochondria at the Mitochondria Associated Membranes (MAMs) of the Endoplasmic Reticulum, or by a direct translocation of a small fragment of the protein into the matrix of mitochondria. One alternative possibility is that metabolic and mitochondrial dysfunctions in ADPKD are secondary to the de-regulation of proliferation, driven by the multiple signaling pathways identified in the disease, which include mTORC1 and AMPK among the most relevant. While the precise mechanisms underlying these novel alterations identified in ADPKD will need further investigation, it is evident that they offer a great opportunity for novel interventions in the disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109495
JournalCellular Signalling
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Cell Signaling
  • Glucose
  • Lipids
  • Metabolism
  • Mitochondria
  • Polycystic kidney disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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