Vitamin D treatment attenuates cardiac FGF23/FGFR4 signaling and hypertrophy in uremic rats

Maren Leifheit-Nestler, Alexander Grabner, Laura Hermann, Beatrice Richter, Karin Schmitz, Dagmar Christiane Fischer, Christopher Yanucil, Christian Faul, Dieter Haffner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Background. Vitamin D deficiency and excess of circulating fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23) contribute to cardiovascular mortality in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). FGF23 activates FGF receptor 4 and (FGFR4) calcineurin/ nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) signaling in cardiac myocytes, thereby causing left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH). Here, we determined if 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (calcitriol) inhibits FGF23-induced cardiac signaling and LVH. Methods. 5/6 nephrectomized (5/6 Nx) rats were treated with different doses of calcitriol for 4 or 10 weeks and cardiac expression of FGF23/FGFR4 and activation of calcineurin/NFAT as well as LVH were analyzed. FGFR4 activation and hypertrophic cell growth were studied in cultured cardiac myocytes that were co-treated with FGF23 and calcitriol. Results. In 5/6Nx rats with LVH, we detected elevated FGF23 expression in bone and myocardium, increased cardiac expression of FGFR4 and elevated cardiac activation of calcineurin/ NFAT signaling. Cardiac expression levels of FGF23 and FGFR4 significantly correlated with the presence of LVH in uremic rats. Treatment with calcitriol reduced LVH as well as cardiac FGFR4 expression and calcineurin/NFAT activation. Bone and cardiac FGF23 expression were further stimulated by calcitriol in a dose-dependent manner, but levels of intact cardiac FGF23 protein were suppressed by high-dose calcitriol. In cultured cardiac myocytes, co-treatment with calcitriol blocked FGF23-induced activation of FGFR4 and hypertrophic cell growth. Conclusions. Our data suggest that in CKD, cardioprotective effects of calcitriol stem from its inhibitory actions on the cardiac FGF23/FGFR4 system, and based on their counterbalancing effects on cardiac myocytes, high FGF23 and low calcitriol synergistically contribute to cardiac hypertrophy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1493-1503
Number of pages11
JournalNephrology Dialysis Transplantation
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017


  • Cardiac hypertrophy
  • Vitamin D
  • chronic kidney disease
  • fibroblast growth factor 23
  • fibroblast growth factor receptor 4

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology
  • Transplantation


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