The regulation of serum phosphate, an acknowledged risk factor for chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular mortality, is poorly understood. The discovery of fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23) as a key regulator of renal phosphate handling and activation of vitamin D has revolutionized our comprehension of phosphate homeostasis. Through as yet undetermined mechanisms, circulating and dietary phosphate appear to have a direct effect on FGF23 release by bone cells that, in turn, causes renal phosphate excretion and decreases intestinal phosphate absorption through a decrease in vitamin D production. Thus, the two major phosphaturic hormones, PTH and FGF23, have opposing effects on vitamin D production, placing vitamin D at the nexus of phosphate homeostasis. While our understanding of phosphate homeostasis has advanced, the factors determining regulation of serum phosphate level remain enigmatic. Diet, time of day, season, gender, age and genetics have all been identified as significant contributors to serum phosphate level. The effects of these factors on serum phosphate have major implications for what is understood as 'normal' and for studies of phosphate homeostasis and metabolism. Moreover, other hormonal mediators such as dopamine, insulin-like growth factor, and angiotensin II also affect renal handling of phosphate. How the major hormone effects on phosphate handling are regulated and how the effect of these other factors are integrated to yield the measurable serum phosphate are only now beginning to be studied.
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