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Renal disease associated with type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome is characterized by a distinct inflammatory phenotype. The purinergic 2X7 receptor (P2X7R) and the nucleotide-binding and oligomerization domain-like receptor containing a pyrin domain 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome have been separately shown to play a role in two models of non-metabolic chronic kidney disease. Moreover, the NLRP3 inflammasome has been implicated in chronic low-grade sterile inflammation characterizing metabolic disorders, though the mechanism(s) involved in inflammasome activation under these conditions are still unknown. We investigated the role of P2X7R (through activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome) in renal inflammation and injury induced by a high-fat diet, an established model of the metabolic syndrome. On a high-fat diet, mice lacking P2X7R developed attenuated renal functional and structural alterations as well as reduced inflammation, fibrosis, and oxidative/carbonyl stress, as compared with wild-type animals, in the absence of significant differences in metabolic parameters. This was associated with blunted up-regulation of the NLRP3 inflammasome components NLRP3, apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a caspase recruitment domain (ASC), pro-caspase 1, pro-interleukin (IL)-1β, and pro-IL-18, as well as reduced inflammasome activation, as evidenced by decreased formation of mature caspase 1, whereas mature IL-1β and IL-18 were not detected. Up-regulated expression of NLRP3 and pro-caspase 1, post-translational processing of pro-caspase-1, and release of IL-18 in response to lipopolysaccharide + 2′(3′)-O-(4-benzoylbenzoyl)ATP were attenuated by P2X7R silencing in cultured mouse podocytes. Protein and mRNA expression of P2X7R, NLRP3, and ASC were also increased in kidneys from subjects with type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome, showing histologically documented renal disease. These data provide evidence of a major role for the purinergic system, at least in part through activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome, in the process driving ‘metabolic’ renal inflammation and injury and identify P2X7R and NLRP3 as novel therapeutic targets.