Background: Chronic renal failure patients are at high risk of cardiovascular events and display endothelial dysfunction, a critical element in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. Upon activation, the endothelium sheds microparticles, considered as markers of endothelial dysfunction that also behave as vectors of bioactive molecules.
Aim: To measure plasma levels of endothelial microparticles (EMPs) in chronic renal failure patients (CRF), either undialyzed or hemodialyzed (HD), and to investigate the ability of uremic toxins to induce EMP release in vitro.
Methods: Circulating EMPs were numerated by flow cytometry, after staining of platelet-free plasma with phycoerythrin (PE)-conjugated anti-CD144 (CD144+ EMP) or anti-CD146 (CD146+ EMP) monoclonal antibodies. Platelet MP (CD41+ PMP), leukocyte MP (CD45+ leukocyte microparticles (LMP)), and annexin-V+ MPs were also counted. In parallel, MPs were counted in supernatant of human umbilical vein endothelial cells incubated with uremic toxins [oxalate, indoxyl sulfate, p-cresol, and homocysteine (Hcy)], at concentrations found in patients.
Results and conclusions: CD144+ EMP and CD146+ EMP levels were significantly higher in CRF and HD patients than in healthy subjects. Furthermore, annexin-V+ MPs were elevated in both groups of uremic patients, and CD41+ PMP and CD45+ LMP were increased in CRF and HD patients, respectively. In vitro, p-cresol and indoxyl sulfate significantly increased both CD146+ and annexin-V+ EMP release. Increased levels of circulating EMP in CRF and HD patients represent a new marker of endothelial dysfunction in uremia. The ability of p-cresol and indoxyl sulfate to increase EMP release in vitro suggests that specific uremic factors may be involved in EMP elevation in patients.