Hypophosphatemia in acute liver failure of a broad range of etiologies is associated with phosphaturia without kidney damage or phosphatonin elevation

Acute Liver Failure Study Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Hypophosphatemia is a common and dangerous complication of acute liver failure (ALF) of various etiologies. While various mechanisms for ALF-associated hypophosphatemia have been proposed including high phosphate uptake into regenerating hepatocytes, acetaminophen (APAP)-associated hypophosphatemia was linked to renal phosphate wasting, and APAP-induced renal tubular injury was proposed as underlying mechanism. We studied 30 normophosphatemic and 46 hypophosphatemic (serum phosphate < 2.5 mg/dL) patients from the Acute Liver Failure Study Group registry with APAP- or non-APAP-induced ALF. Since kidney injury affects phosphate excretion, patients with elevated serum creatinine (>1.2 mg/dL) were excluded. Maximal amount of renal tubular phosphate reabsorption per filtered volume (TmP/GFR) was calculated from simultaneous serum and urine phosphate and creatinine levels to assess renal phosphate handling. Instead of enhanced renal phosphate reabsorption as would be expected during hypophosphatemia of non-renal causes, serum phosphate was positively correlated with TmP/GFR in both APAP- and non-APAP-induced ALF patients (R2 = 0.66 and 0.46, respectively; both P < 0.0001), indicating renal phosphate wasting. Surprisingly, there was no evidence of kidney damage based on urinary markers including neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin and cystatin C even in the APAP group. Additionally, there was no evidence that the known serum phosphatonins parathyroid hormone, fibroblast growth factor 23, and α-Klotho contribute to the observed hypophosphatemia. We conclude that the observed hypophosphatemia with renal phosphate wasting in both APAP- and non-APAP-mediated ALF is likely the result of renal tubular phosphate leak from yet-to-be identified factor(s) with no evidence for proximal tubular damage or contribution of known phosphatonins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalTranslational Research
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Biochemistry, medical


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