The most problematic issue in clinical nephrology is the relentless and progressive increase in patients with ESRD (end-stage renal disease) worldwide. The impact of diabetic nephropathy on the increasing population with CKD (chronic kidney disease) and ESRD is enormous. Three major pathways showing abnormality of intracellular metabolism have been identified in the development of diabetic nephropathy: (i) the activation of polyol and PKC (protein kinase C) pathways; (ii) the formation of advanced glycation end-products; and (iii) intraglomerular hypertension induced by glomerular hyperfiltration. Upstream of these three major pathways, hyperglycaemia is the major driving force of the progression to ESRD from diabetic nephropathy. Downstream of the three pathways, microinflammation and subsequent extracellular matrix expansion are common pathways for the progression of diabetic nephropathy. In recent years, many researchers have been convinced that the inflammation pathways play central roles in the progression of diabetic nephropathy, and the identification of new inflammatory molecules may link to the development of new therapeutic strategies. Various molecules related to the inflammation pathways in diabetic nephropathy include transcription factors, pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, adhesion molecules, Toll-like receptors, adipokines and nuclear receptors, which are candidates for the new molecular targets for the treatment of diabetic nephropathy. Understanding of these molecular pathways of inflammation would translate into the development of anti-inflammation therapeutic strategies.