Ambient protein levels are affected by both synthesis and degradation. Synthesis of a protein is regulated by transcription and messenger RNA (mRNA) translation. Translation has emerged as an important site of regulation of protein expression during development and disease. It is under the control of distinct factors that regulate initiation, elongation and termination phases. Regulation of translation occurs via signaling reactions, guanosine diphosphate–guanosine triphosphate binding and by participation of non-coding RNA species such as microRNA. Recent work has revealed an important role for translation in hypertrophy, matrix protein synthesis, elaboration of growth factors in in vivo and in vitro models of diabetic nephropathy. Studies of translation dysregulation in diabetic nephropathy have enabled identification of novel therapeutic targets. Translation of mRNA is a fertile field for exploration in investigation of kidney disease.