Background: There is evidence for the role of inflammatory cytokines in the inhibition of erythropoiesis in the anemia of chronic disease, but the extent to which they contribute to resistance to erythropoietin (EPO) in patients with chronic renal failure is not clear. The purpose of the present study was to assess the effect of sera from patients with end-stage renal failure with and without infection or inflammatory disease on CFU-E colony formation in vitro.
Methods: Bone marrow was obtained from uremic patients with inflammatory disease and from healthy controls. Standard colony assays were used to assess erythroid colony formation (CFU-E) in response to EPO in the presence or absence of 5% autologous serum. Normal bone marrow mononuclear cells were cultured with 5% v/v sera from three groups of patients: healthy volunteers, uremic controls, and uremic patients with inflammatory disease.
Results: There was no difference between normal and uremic bone marrow response to EPO. However, when uremic/inflammatory bone marrow was cultured with autologous serum the optimal response to EPO was significantly inhibited. Optimal CFU-E colony formation was suppressed significantly by sera from either uremic group when compared with cultures containing sera from controls. Treatment of parallel cultures with a combination of antibodies to interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) almost completely restored the response to EPO. Additionally, bone marrow from healthy controls incubated with uremic sera showed an increased production of interleukin-1 alpha (IL-1 alpha) and IFN-gamma, and TNF-alpha was present in uremic sera.
Conclusions: CFU-E colony formation is inhibited by soluble factors present in the sera of uremic patients with or without inflammatory disease. These soluble factors stimulate the production of IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha, which directly inhibit erythropoiesis at a local level in the bone marrow.