Mechanistic understanding of secondary hyperparathyroidism, vascular calcification, and regulation of phosphate metabolism in chronic kidney disease (CKD) has advanced significantly in the past five decades. In 1960, Bricker developed the 'intact nephron hypothesis', opening the door for hundreds of investigations. He emphasized that 'as the number of functioning nephrons decreases, each remaining nephron must perform a greater fraction of total renal excretion'. Phosphate per se, independent of Ca²+ and calcitriol, directly affects the development of parathyroid gland hyperplasia and secondary hyperparathyroidism. Vitamin D receptor, Ca²+ sensing receptor, and Klotho-fibroblast growth factor (FGF) receptor-1 complex are all significantly decreased in the parathyroid glands of patients with CKD. Duodenal instillation of phosphate rapidly decreases parathyroid hormone release without changes in calcium or calcitriol. The same procedure also rapidly increases renal phosphate excretion independently of FGF-23, suggesting the possibility of an 'intestinal phosphatonin'. These observations suggest a possible 'phosphate sensor' in the parathyroid glands and gastrointestinal tract, although as yet there is no proof for the existence of such a sensor. Evidence shows that phosphate has a key role in parathyroid hyperplasia by activating the transforming growth factor-α-epidermal growth factor receptor complex. Thus, control of serum phosphorus early in the course of CKD will significantly ameliorate the pathological manifestations observed during progressive deterioration of renal function.
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