Klotho is a recently discovered anti-aging gene and is primarily expressed in kidneys. In humans, the klotho level decreases with age whereas the prevalence of chronic kidney disease (CKD) increases with age. Diabetic nephropathy is the most common form of CKD, which leads to end-stage renal disease. A decrease in klotho has been found in kidneys of patients with diabetic nephropathy. The purpose of this study is to assess whether klotho gene deficiency affects early diabetic nephropathy in a mouse of model of type 1 diabetes induced by streptozotocin (STZ). Male KL+/-mutant and wild-type mice (6-8 weeks) were injected with multiple low doses of STZ. Renal functions and renal blood flow were assessed. Kidneys were collected for histological examination and molecular assays of TGFβ1 and mammalian targets of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling. Klotho deficiency in KL+/- mutant mice exacerbated STZ-induced increases in urine albumin, blood urea nitrogen, expansion of mesangial matrix in renal glomeruli, and kidney hypertrophy, suggesting a protective role of klotho in kidney function and structure. Klotho deficiency did not affect renal blood flow. Notably, klotho deficiency significantly increased phosphorylation of Smad2, indicating enhanced TGFβ1 signaling in kidneys. Klotho deficiency also increased phosphorylation of mTOR and S6 (a downstream effector of mTOR), indicating enhanced mTOR signaling in kidneys of early diabetic mice. Thus, klotho gene deficiency may make kidneys more susceptible to diabetic injury. Klotho gene deficiency exacerbated early diabetic nephropathy via enhancing both TGFβ1 and mTOR signaling in kidneys.
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