Background: During peritoneal dialysis (PD), the peritoneum is exposed to bioincompatible dialysis fluids that cause epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition of mesothelial cells, fibrosis, and angiogenesis. Ultrafiltration failure is associated with high transport rates and increased vascular surface, indicating the implication of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Sources of VEGF in vivo in PD patients remain unclear. We analyzed the correlation between epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition of mesothelial cells and both VEGF level and peritoneal functional decline.
Methods: Effluent mesothelial cells were isolated from 37 PD patients and analyzed for mesenchymal conversion. Mass transfer coefficient for creatinine (Cr-MTC) was used to evaluate peritoneal function. VEGF concentration was measured by using standard procedures. Peritoneal biopsy specimens from 12 PD patients and 6 controls were analyzed immunohistochemically for VEGF and cytokeratin expression.
Results: Nonepithelioid mesothelial cells from effluent produced a greater amount of VEGF ex vivo than epithelial-like mesothelial cells (P < 0.001). Patients whose drainage contained nonepithelioid mesothelial cells had greater serum VEGF levels than those with epithelial-like mesothelial cells in their effluent (P < 0.01). VEGF production ex vivo by effluent mesothelial cells correlated with serum VEGF level (r = 0.6; P < 0.01). In addition, Cr-MTC correlated with VEGF levels in culture (r = 0.8; P < 0.001) and serum (r = 0.35; P < 0.05). Cr-MTC also was associated with mesothelial cell phenotype. VEGF expression in stromal cells, retaining mesothelial markers, was observed in peritoneal biopsy specimens from high-transporter patients.
Conclusion: These results suggest that mesothelial cells that have undergone epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition are the main source of VEGF in PD patients and therefore may be responsible for a high peritoneal transport rate.