Although glomerular damage plays a well-established and important role in the pathomechanism of diabetic nephropathy, it alone does not fully explain the progression of renal complications in long-term diabetes mellitus. We discuss experimental evidence showing involvement of the postglomerular microvessels (peritubular capillaries and venules) in diabetic microangiopathy. This involvement is manifest in increased permeability of these vessels to plasma proteins and in highly augmented lymphatic drainage of the extravasated proteins from the renal interstitium. We suggest that in the advanced phase of diabetic nephropathy, proteinuria (corresponding to excess leakage of proteins through the glomerular capillary wall) indicates the probability that postglomerular microvessels have also allowed leakage of plasma proteins. As long as lymphatic drainage is capable of removing the increased quantity of extravasated plasma proteins from the interstitium, renal function should not be deleteriously affected. However, if the excess amount of extravasated proteins exceeds the capacity of lymphatic drainage, increases in interstitial volume and pressure are unavoidable with detrimental consequences for glomerular filtration and tubular reabsorption. Under these conditions, a potential positive-feedback loop can be visualized that involves increased extravasation of plasma proteins leading to increased interstitial pressure that through dilation of the afferent and efferent arterioles results in a further increase in protein extravasation. These conditions combined with glomerular damage should lead to the eventual collapse of renal function.

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