FGF23 activates injury-primed renal fibroblasts via FGFR4-dependent signalling and enhancement of TGF-β autoinduction

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Bone-derived fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23) is an important endocrine regulator of mineral homeostasis with effects transduced by cognate FGF receptor (FGFR)1-α-Klotho complexes. Circulating FGF23 levels rise precipitously in patients with kidney disease and portend worse renal and cardiovascular outcomes. De novo expression of FGF23 has been found in the heart and kidney following injury but its significance remains unclear. Studies showing that exposure to chronically high FGF23 concentrations activates hypertrophic gene programs in the cardiomyocyte has spawned intense interest in other pathological off-target effects of FGF23 excess. In the kidney, observational evidence points to a concordance of ectopic renal FGF23 expression and the activation of local transforming growth factor (TGF)-β signalling. Although we have previously shown that FGF23 activates injury-primed renal fibroblasts in vitro, our understanding of the mechanism underpinning these effects was incomplete. Here we show that in the absence of α-Klotho, FGF23 augments pro-fibrotic signalling cascades in injury-primed renal fibroblasts via activation of FGFR4 and upregulation of the calcium transporter, transient receptor potential cation channel 6. The resultant rise in intracellular calcium and production of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species induced expression of NFAT responsive-genes and enhanced TGF-β1 autoinduction through non-canonical JNK-dependent pathways. Reconstitution with transmembrane α-Klotho, or its soluble ectodomain, restored classical Egr signalling and antagonised FGF23-driven myofibroblast differentiation. Thus, renal FGF23 may amplify local myofibroblast activation in injury and perpetuate pro-fibrotic signalling. These findings strengthen the rationale for exploring therapeutic inhibition of FGFR4 or restoration of α-Klotho as upstream regulators of off-target FGF23 effects.




Smith, E. R., Holt, S. G., & Hewitson, T. D. (2017). FGF23 activates injury-primed renal fibroblasts via FGFR4-dependent signalling and enhancement of TGF-β autoinduction. International Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, 92, 63–78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocel.2017.09.009

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