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Metabolomics insights into chronic kidney disease and modulatory effect of rhubarb against tubulointerstitial fibrosis

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Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a major public health problem worldwide. Rhubarb has been shown to have nephroprotective and anti-fibrotic activities in patients with CKD. However, bioactive fractions and biochemical mechanism of anti-fibrotic properties of rhubarb remain unclear. Here we applied ultra-performance liquid chromatography-quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry together with univariate and multivariate statistical analyses to investigate the urinary metabolite profile in rats with adenine-induced CKD treated with the petroleum ether (PE)-, ethyl acetate (EA)- and n-butanol (BU)- extracts of rhubarb. Significant differences in renal function, kidney histopathology as well as metabolic profiles were observed between CKD and control rats. Changes in these parameters reflected characteristic phenotypes of CKD rats. We further identified a series of differential urinary metabolites for CKD rats, suggesting metabolic dysfunction in pathway of amino acid, purine, taurine, and choline metabolisms. Treatment with EA, BU and PE extracts of rhubarb improved renal function and histopathological abnormalities including interstitial fibrosis and inflammation, and either fully or partially reversed the abnormalities of the urinary metabolites. Among them, the nephroprotective effect of EA extract was stronger than BU and PE extracts. This work provides important mechanistic insights into the CKD and nephroprotective effects of different rhubarb extract against tubulo-interstitial fibrosis.

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