Background: Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is closely related to the cardiovascular events in vascular calcification (VC). However, little has known about the characteristics of kidney injury caused by VC. Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) is an endocrine factor, which takes part in various metabolic actions with the potential to alleviate metabolic disorder diseases. Even FGF21 has been regarded as a biomarker in CKD, the role of FGF21 in CKD remains unclear. Therefore, in this study, we evaluate the FGF21 on the kidney injury in VC rats.

Methods: The male Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into three groups: (1) control group, (2) Vitamin D3 plus nicotine (VDN)-induced VC group, (3) FGF21-treated VDN group. After 4 weeks, the rats were killed and the blood was collected for serum creatinine, urea nitrogen, calcium, and phosphate measurement. Moreover, the renal tissues were homogenized for alkaline phosphatases (ALPs) activity and calcium content. The levels of FGF21 protein were measured by radioimmunoassay. The levels of β-Klotho and FGF receptor 1 (FGFR1) protein were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The structural damage and calcifications in aortas were stained by Alizarin-red S. Moreover, the structure of kidney was observed by hematoxylin and eosin staining.

Results: The renal function impairment caused by VDN modeling was ameliorated by FGF21 treatment, inhibited the elevated serum creatinine and urea level by 20.5% (34.750 ± 4.334 μmol/L vs. 27.630 ± 2.387 μmol/L) and 4.0% (7.038 ± 0.590 mmol/L vs. 6.763 ± 0.374 mmol/L; P < 0.01), respectively, together with the structural damages of glomerular atrophy and renal interstitial fibrosis. FGF21 treatment downregulated the ALP activity, calcium content in the kidney of VC rats by 42.1% (P < 0.01) and 11.7% (P < 0.05) as well as ameliorated the aortic injury and calcification as compared with VDN treatment alone group, indicating an ameliorative effect on VC. ELISA assays showed that the expression of β-Klotho, a component of FGF21 receptor system, was increased in VDN-treated VC rats by 37.4% (6.588 ± 0.957 pg/mg vs. 9.054 ± 0.963 pg/mg; P < 0.01), indicating an FGF21-resistant state. Moreover, FGF21 treatment downregulated the level of β-Klotho in renal tissue by 16.7% (9.054 ± 0.963 pg/mg vs. 7.544 ± 1.362 pg/mg; P < 0.05). However, the level of FGFR1, the receptor of FGF21, kept unchanged under VDN and VDN plus FGF21 administration (0.191 ± 0.0376 ng/mg vs. 0.189 ± 0.032 ng/mg vs. 0.181 ± 0.034 ng/mg; P > 0.05).

Conclusions: In the present study, FGF21 was observed to ameliorate the kidney injury in VDN-induced VC rats. FGF21 might be a potential therapeutic factor in CKD by cutting off the vicious circle between VC and kidney injury.

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Published in Chinese Medical Journal, v. 131, issue 5, p. 532-538.

© 2018 Chinese Medical Journal | Produced by Wolters Kluwer ‑ Medknow

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This study was funded by grants from National Natural Science Fund of China (No. 81570388), Beijing Natural Science Foundation (No. 7142048), and the Major State Basic Research Development Program of China (973 Program, No. 2015CB554404).