Introduction: Anemia is a common complication of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in children; however, the role of inflammation in its pathogenesis remains incompletely understood.
Methods: To elucidate the role of interleukin (IL)-6 in renal anemia, we induced CKD by adenine diet in juvenile wild-type (WT) and IL-6 deficient (Il6KO) mice, and examined serum IL-6 and relevant parameters in children with CKD.
Results: WT-CKD mice developed anemia despite increases in serum erythropoietin and displayed low serum iron and elevated serum IL-6. IL-6 deficiency resulted in a significant improvement of red blood cell count and hemoglobin in CKD mice. This effect was associated with improvement of hypoferremia by Il6 deletion, likely mediated by hepcidin. However, correction of hypoferremia by oral iron supplementation in WT-CKD mice did not fully replicate the protective effects of Il6 deletion, suggesting an additional iron-independent role for IL-6 in CKD-anemia. Indeed, Il6 deletion mitigated the severity of renal fibrosis and alleviated relative erythropoietin insufficiency in CKD mice. Cytokine profiling in a pediatric CKD cohort demonstrated that of 10 cytokines (IL-1β, IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12, IL-13, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, and interferon-γ), only IL-6 was significantly (inversely) associated with hemoglobin when adjusted for glomerular filtration rate (GFR). The association between IL-6 and hemoglobin in children with CKD remained significant after adjustment for CKD stage, iron therapy, and hepcidin.
Discussion: IL-6 contributes to development of anemia in juvenile CKD, through mechanisms that include induction of hypoferremia, aggravation of renal fibrosis, and alteration of the erythropoietin axis. IL-6 appears to be a promising therapeutic target in the management of CKD-anemia.
Keywords: anemia; chronic kidney disease; erythropoietin; inflammation; pediatric nephrology.