Fructose in the kidney: from physiology to pathology

Takahiko Nakagawa, Duk Hee Kang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The Warburg effect is a unique property of cancer cells, in which glycolysis is activated instead of mitochondrial respiration despite oxygen availability. However, recent studies found that the Warburg effect also mediates non-cancer disorders, including kidney disease. Currently, diabetes or glucose has been postulated to mediate the Warburg effect in the kidney, but it is of importance that the Warburg effect can be induced under nondiabetic conditions. Fructose is endogenously produced in several organs, including the kidney, under both physiological and pathological conditions. In the kidney, fructose is predominantly metabolized in the proximal tubules; under normal physiologic conditions, fructose is utilized as a substrate for gluconeogenesis and contributes to maintain systemic glucose concentration under starvation conditions. However, when present in excess, fructose likely becomes deleterious, possibly due in part to excessive uric acid, which is a by-product of fructose metabolism. A potential mechanism is that uric acid suppresses aconitase in the Krebs cycle and therefore reduces mitochondrial oxidation. Consequently, fructose favors glycolysis over mitochondrial respiration, a process that is similar to the Warburg effect in cancer cells. Activation of glycolysis also links to several side pathways, including the pentose phosphate pathway, hexosamine pathway, and lipid synthesis, to provide biosynthetic precursors as fuel for renal inflammation and fibrosis. We now hypothesize that fructose could be the mediator for the Warburg effect in the kidney and a potential mechanism for chronic kidney disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-541
Number of pages15
JournalKidney Research and Clinical Practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by The Korean Society of Nephrology.


  • Fructose
  • Glycolysis
  • Inflammation
  • Mitochondria
  • Proximal tubules
  • Uric acid
  • Warburg effect


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