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Open Access Research

Sex differences in kidney gene expression during the life cycle of F344 rats

Joshua C Kwekel*, Varsha G Desai, Carrie L Moland, Vikrant Vijay and James C Fuscoe*

Author Affiliations

Personalized Medicine Branch, Division of Systems Biology, National Center for Toxicological Research, US Food and Drug Administration, 3900 NCTR Road, Jefferson, AR 72079, USA

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Biology of Sex Differences 2013, 4:14  doi:10.1186/2042-6410-4-14

Published: 31 July 2013

Abstract

Background

The kidney functions in key physiological processes to filter blood and regulate blood pressure via key molecular transporters and ion channels. Sex-specific differences have been observed in renal disease incidence and progression, as well as acute kidney injury in response to certain drugs. Although advances have been made in characterizing the molecular components involved in various kidney functions, the molecular mechanisms responsible for sex differences are not well understood. We hypothesized that the basal expression levels of genes involved in various kidney functions throughout the life cycle will influence sex-specific susceptibilities to adverse renal events.

Methods

Whole genome microarray gene expression analysis was performed on kidney samples collected from untreated male and female Fischer 344 (F344) rats at eight age groups between 2 and 104 weeks of age.

Results

A combined filtering approach using statistical (ANOVA or pairwise t test, FDR 0.05) and fold-change criteria (>1.5 relative fold change) was used to identify 7,447 unique differentially expressed genes (DEGs). Principal component analysis (PCA) of the 7,447 DEGs revealed sex-related differences in mRNA expression at early (2 weeks), middle (8, 15, and 21 weeks), and late (104 weeks) ages in the rat life cycle. Functional analysis (Ingenuity Pathway Analysis) of these sex-different genes indicated over-representation of specific pathways and networks including renal tubule injury, drug metabolism, and immune cell and inflammatory responses. The mRNAs that code for the qualified urinary protein kidney biomarkers KIM-1, Clu, Tff3, and Lcn2 were also observed to show sex differences.

Conclusions

These data represent one of the most comprehensive in-life time course studies to be published, assessing sex differences in global gene expression in the F344 rat kidney. PCA and Venn analyses reveal specific periods of sexually dimorphic gene expression which are associated with functional categories (xenobiotic metabolism and immune cell and inflammatory responses) of key relevance to acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease, which may underlie sex-specific susceptibility. Analysis of the basal gene expression patterns of renal genes throughout the life cycle of the rat will improve the use of current and future renal biomarkers and inform our assessments of kidney injury and disease.

Keywords:
Kidney; Gene expression; Sex; Age; Biomarker