Diabetic nephropathy is the leading cause of kidney failure and its increasing prevalence and incidence has imposed global socio-economic stress on healthcare systems worldwide. Although historically considered a metabolic disorder, recent studies have established that inflammatory responses are central to the pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy. TLRs (Toll-like receptors) are a family of pattern recognition receptors responsible for the initiation of inflammatory and immune responses. The regulation of TLR2 and TLR4 have been implicated in the pathogenesis of various kidney diseases, and emerging evidence shows their involvement in the perpetuation of inflammation in the diabetic kidney. The present review focuses on the relative contributions of TLR2 and TLR4 in recognizing endogenous ligands relevant to diabetic nephropathy and their subsequent activation of NF-κB (nuclear factor κB), which results in the synthesis and secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. Moreover, we discuss the pro-inflammatory signalling pathways of TLR2 and TLR4, in which their interruption or blockade may prove to be important therapeutic targets, potentially translated into clinical treatments for diabetic nephropathy. Currently, inhibitors to TLR2 and TLR4 are undergoing clinical trials in various inflammatory models of disease, but none in patients with diabetic nephropathy. Given the existing literature, there is a fundamental necessity to undertake trials in patients with diabetic nephropathy with a focus on renal end points.

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