Heddwen L Brooks
Associate Professor, Pharmacology
Professor, BIO5 Institute
Professor, Biomedical Engineering
Professor, Medicine
Professor, Physiological Sciences - GIDP
Professor, Physiology
Primary Department
Department Affiliations
(520) 626-7702
Research Interest
Dr. Brooks is a renal physiologist and has developed microarray technology to address in vivo signaling pathways involved in the hormonal regulation of renal function. Current areas of research in the Brooks Laboratory are focused on importance of sex differences in the onset of postmenopausal hypertension and diabetic kidney disease and identifying new therapies for polycystic kidney disease and lithium-induced nephropathy.


Fenton, R. A., & Brooks, H. L. (2014). 2014 Robert W. Berliner Award for Excellence in Renal Physiology. American journal of physiology. Renal physiology.
Goldberg, E. L., Romero-Aleshire, M. J., Renkema, K. R., Ventevogel, M. S., Chew, W. M., Uhrlaub, J. L., Smithey, M. J., Limesand, K. H., Sempowski, G. D., Brooks, H. L., & Nikolich-Žugich, J. (2015). Lifespan-extending caloric restriction or mTOR inhibition impair adaptive immunity of old mice by distinct mechanisms. Aging cell, 14(1), 130-8.
BIO5 Collaborators
Heddwen L Brooks, Kirsten H Limesand

Aging of the world population and a concomitant increase in age-related diseases and disabilities mandates the search for strategies to increase healthspan, the length of time an individual lives healthy and productively. Due to the age-related decline of the immune system, infectious diseases remain among the top 5-10 causes of mortality and morbidity in the elderly, and improving immune function during aging remains an important aspect of healthspan extension. Calorie restriction (CR) and more recently rapamycin (rapa) feeding have both been used to extend lifespan in mice. Preciously few studies have actually investigated the impact of each of these interventions upon in vivo immune defense against relevant microbial challenge in old organisms. We tested how rapa and CR each impacted the immune system in adult and old mice. We report that each intervention differentially altered T-cell development in the thymus, peripheral T-cell maintenance, T-cell function and host survival after West Nile virus infection, inducing distinct but deleterious consequences to the aging immune system. We conclude that neither rapa feeding nor CR, in the current form/administration regimen, may be optimal strategies for extending healthy immune function and, with it, lifespan.

Morris, R. G., Uchida, S., Brooks, H., Knepper, M. A., & Chou, C. (2005). Altered expression profile of transporters in the inner medullary collecting duct of aquaporin-1 knockout mice. American journal of physiology. Renal physiology, 289(1), F194-9.

Aquaporin-1 is the major protein responsible for transport of water across the epithelia of the proximal tubule and thin descending limbs. Rapid water efflux across the thin descending limb is required for the normal function of the countercurrent multiplier mechanism. Therefore, urinary concentrating capacity is severely impaired in aquaporin-1 knockout (AQP1 -/-) mice. Here, we have investigated the long-term consequences of deletion of the AQP1 gene product by profiling abundance changes in transporters expressed in the inner medullas of AQP1 (-/-) mice vs. heterozygotes [AQP1 (+/-)], which have a normal concentrating capacity. Semiquantitative immunoblotting demonstrated marked suppression of two proteins strongly expressed in the inner medullary collecting duct (IMCD): UT-A1 (a urea transporter) and AQP4 (a basolateral water channel). Furthermore, the urea permeability of the IMCD was significantly reduced in AQP1 (-/-) mice. In contrast, there was increased expression of three proteins normally expressed at higher levels in the cortical collecting duct (CCD) than in IMCD: AQP3 (another basolateral water channel) and the epithelial sodium channel subunits beta-ENaC and gamma-ENaC. Changes in expression of these proteins were confirmed by immunocytochemistry. Messenger RNA profiling (real-time RT-PCR) revealed changes in UT-A1, beta-ENaC, gamma-ENaC, and AQP3 transcript abundance that paralleled the changes in protein abundance. Thus, from the perspective of transport proteins, the IMCDs of AQP1 (-/-) mice have a significantly altered phenotype. To address whether these changes are specific to AQP1 (-/-) mice, we profiled IMCD transporter expression in a second knockout model manifesting a concentrating defect, that of ClC-nK1, a chloride channel in the ascending thin limb important for urinary concentration. As in the AQP1 knockout mice, ClC-nK1 (-/-) mice showed decreased expression of UT-A1 and increased expression of beta-ENaC and gamma-ENaC vs. WT controls. In conclusion, the expression profile of IMCD transporters is markedly altered in AQP1 -/- mice and this manifestation is related to the associated concentrating defect.

Brooks, H., Keck, M., Romero-Aleshire, M. J., Cai, Q., Hoyer, P. B., & Brooks, H. L. (2007). Hormonal status affects the progression of STZ-induced diabetes and diabetic renal damage in the VCD mouse model of menopause. American journal of physiology. Renal physiology, 293(1).

Changes in the estrogen/testosterone balance at menopause may negatively influence the development of diabetic kidney disease. Furthermore, recent studies suggest that changes in hormone levels during perimenopause may influence disease development. Injection of 4-vinylcyclohexene diepoxide (VCD) in B(6)C(3)F(1) mice induces gradual ovarian failure, preserving both the perimenopausal (peri-ovarian failure) and menopausal (post-ovarian failure) periods. To address the impact of the transition into menopause on the development of diabetes and diabetic kidney damage, we used streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetes in the VCD model of menopause. After 6 wk of STZ-induced diabetes, blood glucose was significantly increased in post-ovarian failure (post-OF) diabetic mice compared with cycling diabetic mice. In peri-ovarian failure (peri-OF) diabetic mice, blood glucose levels trended higher but were not significantly different from cycling diabetic mice, suggesting a continuum of worsening blood glucose across the menopausal transition. Cell proliferation, an early marker of damage in the kidney, was increased in post-OF diabetic mice compared with cycling diabetic mice, as measured by PCNA immunohistochemistry. In post-OF diabetic mice, mRNA abundance of early growth response-1 (Egr-1), collagen-4alpha1, and matrix metalloproteinase-9 were increased and 3beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 4 (3beta-HSD4) and transforming growth factor-beta(2) (TGF-beta(2)) were decreased compared with cycling diabetic mice. In peri-OF diabetic mice, mRNA abundance of Egr-1 and 3beta-HSD4 were increased, and TGF-beta(2) was decreased compared with cycling diabetic mice. This study highlights the importance and utility of the VCD model of menopause, as it provides a physiologically relevant system for determining the impact of the menopausal transition on diabetes and diabetic kidney damage.

Drake, L. J., Barker, G. C., Korchev, Y., Lab, M., Brooks, H., & Bundy, D. A. (1998). Molecular and functional characterization of a recombinant protein of Trichuris trichiura. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 265(1405), 1559-65.

The pore-forming protein of the human whipworm, Trichuris trichiura, has been postulated to facilitate invasion of the host gut and enable the parasite to maintain its syncytial environment. The data presented here describe the first, to our knowledge, molecular characterization of a pore-forming protein in any helminth and provide a unique demonstration of the functional interaction between a parasite antigen and host molecules. Immunological screening of a T. trichiura cDNA library with T. trichiura infection sera identified a clone of 1.4 kB, the cDNA consisting of 1495 base pairs encoding a protein of 50 kDa. The sequence has a highly repetitive nature containing nine four-disulphide-bonded core domains. Structural prediction analyses reveals an amphipathic nature. TT50 induced pore formation in bilayers in a manner identical to that of the native protein. IgG antibody isolated from T. trichiura infection serum was observed to abolish channel activity.