Mitochondrion-driven nephroprotective mechanisms of novel glucose lowering medications

Baris Afsar*, Mads Hornum, Rengin Elsurer Afsar, Lale A. Ertuglu, Alberto Ortiz, Adrian Covic, Daniel H. van Raalte, David Z. I. Cherney, Mehmet Kanbay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Therapy for diabetic kidney disease (DKD) is undergoing a revolution with the realization that some glucose-lowering drugs have nephroprotective actions that may be intrinsic to the drugs and not dependent on the impact on diabetes control, as demonstrated with the sodium glucose co-transporter-2 (SGLT-2) inhibitors. Mitochondria are a critical factor required for the maintenance of kidney function, given its high energy demanding profile, with extensive use of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Consequently, deficiency of the master regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1α predisposes to kidney disease. Perhaps as a result of key role of mitochondria in fundamental cellular functions, mitochondrial dysfunction may play a role in the pathogenesis of common conditions such as DKD. Finding pharmacological agents to influence this pathway could therefore lead to early implementation of therapy. Importantly, glucose-lowering drugs such as glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor activators and SGLT2 inhibitors have kidney and/or cardioprotective actions in patients with diabetes. Accumulating evidence from preclinical studies has suggested a protective effect of these drugs that is in part mediated by normalizing mitochondrial function. We now critically review this evidence and discuss studies needed to confirm mitochondrial protective benefits across a range of clinical studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-82
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021

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