PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Several key elements of the insulin signaling cascade contribute to podocyte function and survival. While it was initially thought that the consequences of altered insulin signaling to podocyte function was strictly related to altered glucose uptake, it has become clear that upstream signaling events involved in cell survival, lipid metabolism or nutrient sensing and modulated by insulin are strong independent contributors to podocyte function.
RECENT FINDINGS: Akt2, the major isoform of Akt activated following cellular insulin stimulation, protects against the progression of renal disease in nephron-deficient mice, and podocyte-specific deletion of Akt2 results in a more rapid progression of experimental glomerular disease. In diabetes, podocyte mammalian target of rapamycin activation clearly contributes to podocyte injury and regulated autophagy. Furthermore, podocyte-specific glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT4) deficiency protects podocytes by preventing mammalian target of rapamycin signaling independently of glucose uptake. Finally, intracellular lipids have been recently recognized as major modulators of podocyte insulin signaling and as a new therapeutic target.
SUMMARY: The identification of new contributors to podocyte insulin signaling is of extreme translational value as it may lead to new drug development strategies for diabetic kidney disease, as well as for other proteinuric kidney diseases.