Metabolic requirements of the nephron

  • Kasey Cargill
  • Sunder Sims-LucasEmail author


The mammalian kidney is a complex organ that has several metabolically active cell types to aid in waste filtration, salt-water balance, and electrolyte homeostasis in the body. These functions are done primarily through the nephron, which relies on strict regulation of various metabolic pathways. Any deviations in the metabolic profile of nephrons or their precursor cells called nephron progenitors can lead to renal pathologies and abnormal development. Metabolism encompasses the mechanisms by which cells generate intermediate molecules and energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is required by all cells and is mainly generated through glycolysis, fatty acid oxidation, and oxidative phosphorylation. During kidney development, self-renewing or proliferating cells rely on glycolysis to a greater extent than the other metabolic pathways to supply energy, replenish reducing equivalents, and generate nucleotides. However, terminally differentiated cell types rely more heavily on fatty acid oxidation and oxidative phosphorylation performed in the mitochondria to fulfill energy requirements. Further, the mature nephron is comprised of distinct segments and each segment utilizes metabolic pathways to varying degrees depending on the specific function. This review will focus on major metabolic processes performed by the nephron during health and disease.


Metabolism Nephron Kidney Glycolysis Oxidative phosphorylation Fatty acid oxidation 



KC is supported by the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and by the NIH on a NIDDK F31 (DK116370) and SSL is supported by a NIDDK K01 (DK096996), and an R03 (DK110503).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© IPNA 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rangos Research CenterUPMC Children’s Hospital of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Department of Pediatrics, Division of NephrologyUniversity of Pittsburgh School of MedicinePittsburghUSA

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