Melamine incident, linked to nephrotoxicity and kidney stone in infants previously exposed to melamine-contaminated milk products, was unprecedentedly grave in China in 2008 as little was known about the mechanistic process leading to renal dysfunction in affected children. This study investigates whether neonatal ingestion of melamine leads to renal and vascular dysfunction in adulthood; and whether ingestion of melamine in pregnant rats leads to renal dysfunction in their offspring. A combination of approaches employed includes functional studies in rat renal arteries, renal blood flow measurement by functional magnetic resonance imaging, assay for pro-inflammatory and fibrotic biomarkers, immunohistochemistry, and detection of plasma and renal melamine. We provide mechanistic evidence showing for the first time that melamine reduces renal blood flow and impairs renal and vascular function associated with overexpression of inflammatory markers, transforming growth factor-β1, bone morphogenic protein 4 and cyclooxygenase-2 in kidney and renal vasculature. Melamine also induces renal inflammation and fibrosis. More importantly, melamine causes nephropathies in offsprings from pregnant rat exposed to melamine during pregnancy, as well as in neonatal rat exposed to melamine afterbirth, thus supporting the clinical observations of kidney stone and acute renal failure in infants consuming melamine-contaminated milk products.
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