Role of insulin resistance in kidney dysfunction: Insights into the mechanism and epidemiological evidence

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Several lines of evidence suggest a pathogenic role of insulin resistance on kidney dysfunction. Potential mechanisms are mostly due to the effect of single abnormalities related to insulin resistance and clustering into the metabolic syndrome. Hyperinsulinemia, which is inevitably associated to insulin resistance in non diabetic states, also appears to play a role on kidney function by inducing glomerular hyperfiltration and increased vascular permeability. More recently, adipocytokine which are linked to insulin resistance, low grade inflammation, endothelial dysfunction and vascular damage have been proposed as additional molecules able to modulate kidney function. In addition, recent evidences point also to a role of insulin resistance at the level of the podocyte, an important player in early phases of diabetic kidney damage, thus suggesting a new mechanism through which a reduction of insulin action can affect kidney function. In fact, mouse models not expressing the podocyte insulin receptor develop podocytes apoptosis, effacement of its foot processes along with thickening of the glomerular basement membrane, increased glomerulosclerosis and albuminuria.A great number of epidemiological studies have repeatedly reported the association between insulin resistance and kidney dysfunction in both non diabetic and diabetic subjects. Among these, studies addressing the impact of insulin resistance genes on kidney dysfunction have played the important role to help establish a cause-effect relationship between these two traits.Finally, numerous independent intervention studies have shown that a favourable modulation of insulin resistance has a positive effect also on urinary albumin and total protein excretion.In conclusion, several data of different nature consistently support the role of insulin resistance and related abnormalities on kidney dysfunction. Intervention trials designed to investigate whether treating insulin resistance ameliorates also hard renal end-points are both timely and needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-36
Number of pages8
JournalNephrology Dialysis Transplantation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


  • diabetic kidney disease
  • genetic susceptibility
  • insulin sensitizers
  • insulin signalling
  • metabolic syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology
  • Transplantation


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