Excessive intake of phosphate has been known to induce renal tubular damage and interstitial inflammation, leading to acute kidney injury or chronic kidney disease in rodents and humans. However, sensitive and early biomarkers for phosphate-induced kidney damage remain to be identified. Our previous RNA-Seq analysis of renal gene expression identified interleukin-36α (IL-36α) as a gene significantly up-regulated by dietary phosphate load in mice. To determine the time course and dose dependency of renal IL-36α expression induced by dietary phosphate load, we placed mice with or without uninephrectomy on a diet containing either 0.35%, 1.0%, 1.5% or 2.0% inorganic phosphate for 10 days, 4 weeks, or 8 weeks and evaluated renal expression of IL-36α and other markers of tubular damage and inflammation by quantitative RT-PCR, immunoblot analysis, and immunohistochemistry. We found that IL-36α expression was induced in distal convoluted tubules and correlated with phosphate excretion per nephron. The increase in IL-36α expression was simultaneous with but more robust in amplitude than the increase in tubular damage markers such as Osteopontin and Ngal, preceding the increase in expression of other inflammatory cytokines, including Tnf-α, IL-1β, and Tgf-β1. We conclude that IL-36α serves as a marker that reflects the degree of phosphate load excreted per nephron and of associated kidney damage.
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