Sodium glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors are beneficial in halting diabetic kidney disease; however, the complete mechanisms have not yet been elucidated. The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is associated with the suppression of sirtuin 3 (Sirt3) and aberrant glycolysis. Here, we hypothesized that the SGLT2 inhibitor empagliflozin restores normal kidney histology and function in association with the inhibition of aberrant glycolysis in diabetic kidneys. CD-1 mice with streptozotocin-induced diabetes displayed kidney fibrosis that was associated with the EMT at 4 months after diabetes induction. Empagliflozin intervention for 1 month restored all pathological changes; however, adjustment of blood glucose by insulin did not. Empagliflozin normalized the suppressed Sirt3 levels and aberrant glycolysis that was characterized by HIF-1α accumulation, hexokinase 2 induction, and pyruvate kinase isozyme M2 dimer formation in diabetic kidneys. Empagliflozin also suppressed the accumulation of glycolysis byproducts in diabetic kidneys. Another SGLT2 inhibitor, canagliflozin, demonstrated similar in vivo effects. High-glucose media induced the EMT, which was associated with Sirt3 suppression and aberrant glycolysis induction, in the HK2 proximal tubule cell line; SGLT2 knockdown suppressed the EMT, with restoration of all aberrant functions. SGLT2 suppression in tubular cells also inhibited the mesenchymal transition of neighboring endothelial cells. Taken together, SGLT2 inhibitors exhibit renoprotective potential that is partially dependent on the inhibition of glucose reabsorption and subsequent aberrant glycolysis in kidney tubules.


Jinpeng Li, Haijie Liu, Susumu Takagi, Kyoko Nitta, Munehiro Kitada, Swayam Prakash Srivastava, Yuta Takagaki, Keizo Kanasaki, Daisuke Koya


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