Research Article: Effect of dietary phosphorus intake and age on intestinal phosphorus absorption efficiency and phosphorus balance in male rats

Date Published: November 19, 2018

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Colby J. Vorland, Pamela J. Lachcik, Loretta O. Aromeh, Sharon M. Moe, Neal X. Chen, Kathleen M. Hill Gallant, Nick Ashton.


Intestinal phosphorus absorption is an important component of whole-body phosphorus metabolism, and limiting dietary phosphorus absorption is particularly of interest as a therapeutic target in patients with chronic kidney disease to manage mineral bone disorders. Yet, mechanisms and regulation of intestinal phosphorus absorption have not been adequately studied and discrepancies in findings exist based on the absorption assessment technique used. In vitro techniques show rather consistent effects of dietary phosphorus intake level and age on intestinal sodium-dependent phosphate transport. But, the few studies that have used in vivo techniques conflict with these in vitro studies. Therefore, we aimed to investigate the effects of dietary phosphorus intake level on phosphorus absorption using the in situ ligated loop technique in three different aged rats. Male Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 72), were studied at 10-, 20-, and 30-weeks-of-age on a low (0.1%), normal (0.6%), or high (1.2%) phosphorus diet in a 3×3 factorial design (n = 8/group). Rats were fed their assigned diet for 2-weeks prior to absorption testing by jejunal ligated loop as a non-survival procedure, utilizing 33P radioisotope. Metabolic cages were used for determination of calcium and phosphorus balance over the final four days prior to sacrifice, and blood was collected at the time of sacrifice for biochemistries. Our results show that phosphorus absorption was higher in 10-week-old rats compared with 20- and 30-week-olds and this corresponded to higher gene expression of the major phosphate transporter, NaPi-2b, as well as higher whole-body phosphorus balance and net phosphorus absorption. Dietary phosphorus intake level did not affect jejunal phosphorus absorption or NaPi-2b gene expression. Our results contrast with studies utilizing in vitro techniques, but corroborate results of other rodent studies utilizing in situ or in vivo methods. Thus, there is need for additional studies that employ more physiological methods of phosphorus absorption assessment.

Partial Text

Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for normal physiological function. However, elevated serum phosphorus has been linked to increased cardiovascular disease [1], bone disease [2], and mortality [3, 4]. This is particularly true for patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) [5], where the failing kidney has a reduced capacity for renal excretion. In normal physiology, the kidney is the primary site of regulation for phosphate homeostasis [6]. Thus, as the kidneys fail, therapeutic options focus on reducing intestinal phosphorus absorption through dietary restriction, luminal phosphate binding, or inhibiting intestinal phosphorus transport. However, mechanisms and regulation of intestinal phosphorus absorption have not been adequately studied, especially when compared to that in the kidney. Renal phosphate reabsorption is nearly completely transcellular and sodium-dependent and is regulated by the major known phosphaturic hormones, parathyroid hormone (PTH) and fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23) [7]. In contrast to the kidney, intestinal phosphorus absorption occurs by both sodium-dependent and sodium-independent pathways [8]. However, the relative importance of each component is debated.

Body weight prior to starting the assigned diet was higher for older rats, as physiologically expected (10-week-olds: 275.8 ± 3.1 g, 20-week-olds: 425.5 ± 5.5 g, 30-week-olds: 461.5 ± 5.5 g, p < 0.0001 for all comparisons, but was not different between the diet groups, nor was there an age x diet interaction (diet main effect, p = 0.3751; age x diet interaction, p = 0.2762). At sacrifice, body weight followed a similar pattern (10-week-olds: 306.7 ± 5.8 g, 20-week-olds: 438.7 ± 4.5 g, 30-week-olds: 485.8 ± 5.7 g, p < 0.0001 for all comparisons; diet main effect, p = 0.1344; age x diet interaction, p = 0.0741). In this study, we found higher intestinal phosphorus absorption at 10-weeks of age compared to 20- and 30-weeks as assessed by the ligated loop technique in both appearance of 33P in plasma and disappearance of 33P from the intestinal loop. This interpretation is supported by the more positive net phosphorus absorption from metabolic balance and more positive overall phosphorus balance, higher plasma phosphorus, and higher NaPi-2b mRNA expression in the 10-week rats vs the 20- and 30-week-olds. The lack of differences between 20- and 30-week-old rats is likely due to less metabolic demand of bone for phosphorus. The increased phosphorus absorption and positive phosphorus balance corresponded to higher serum phosphorus levels at a younger age, similar to that in humans [23, 24]. Further, there was lower PTH and FGF23 levels and higher 1,25D levels at the younger age, suggesting that hormonal regulation decreases renal phosphorus excretion via decreased PTH and FGF23, and increases intestinal absorption via vitamin D [7]. The elevation at 10-weeks likely reflects the increased requirement of phosphorus for growth at this age [25] but how these hormonal changes are stimulated during growth is not completely understood.   Source: