FGF21 prevents low-protein diet-induced renal inflammation in aged mice

Han Fang, Sujoy Ghosh, Landon C. Sims, Kirsten P. Stone, Cristal M. Hill, Denisha Spires, Daria V. Ilatovskaya, Christopher D. Morrison, Thomas W. Gettys, Krisztian Stadler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Low-protein (LP) diets extend lifespan through a comprehensive improvement in metabolic health across multiple tissues and organs. Many of these metabolic responses to protein restriction are secondary to transcriptional activation and release of FGF21 from the liver. However, the effects of an LP diet on the kidney in the context of aging has not been examined. Therefore, the goal of the current study was to investigate the impact of chronic consumption of an LP diet on the kidney in aging mice lacking FGF21. Wild-Type (WT; C57BL/6J) and FGF21 knockout (KO) mice were fed a normal protein diet (20% casein) or an LP (5% casein) diet ad libitum from 3 to 22 mo of age. The LP diet led to a decrease in kidney weight and urinary albumin-To-creatinine ratio in both WT and FGF21 KO mice. Although the LP diet produced only mild fibrosis and infiltration of leukocytes in WT kidneys, the effects were significantly exacerbated by the absence of FGF21. Accordingly, transcriptomic analysis showed that inflammation-related pathways were significantly enriched and upregulated in response to LP diet in FGF21 KO mice but not WT mice. Collectively, these data demonstrate that the LP diet negatively affected the kidney during aging, but in the absence of FGF21, the LP diet-induced renal damage and inflammation were significantly worse, indicating a protective role of FGF21 in the kidney. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Long-Term protein restriction is not advantageous for an otherwise healthy, aging kidney, as it facilitates the development of renal tubular injury and inflammatory cell infiltration. We provide evidence using FGF21 knockout animals that FGF21 is essential to counteract the renal injury and inflammation during aging on a low-protein diet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)F356-F368
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • FGF21
  • aging
  • inflammation
  • kidney
  • low-protein diet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Urology


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