Pathogenesis of renal anemia

Semin Nephrol. 2006 Jul;26(4):261-8. doi: 10.1016/j.semnephrol.2006.06.001.


Anemia is a common complication of chronic kidney disease. Although mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of renal anemia include chronic inflammation, iron deficiency, and shortened half-life of erythrocytes, the primary cause is deficiency of erythropoietin (EPO). Serum EPO levels in patients with chronic kidney disease are usually within the normal range and thus fail to show an appropriate increase with decreasing hemoglobin levels, as found in nonrenal anemias. Studies elucidating the regulation of EPO expression led to the identification of the hypoxia inducible factor-hypoxia responsive element system. However, despite much progress in understanding the molecular mechanisms through which cells can sense oxygen availability and translate this information into altered gene expression, the reason why EPO production is inappropriately low in diseased kidneys remains incompletely understood. Both alterations in the function of EPO-producing cells and perturbations of the oxygen-sensing mechanism in the kidney may contribute. As with other anemias, the consequences of renal anemia are a moderate decrease in tissue oxygen tensions and counterregulatory mechanisms that maintain total oxygen consumption, including a persistent increase in cardiac output.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia / etiology*
  • Anemia / genetics
  • Anemia / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / metabolism
  • Erythropoiesis
  • Erythropoietin / biosynthesis
  • Erythropoietin / genetics
  • Hemolysis
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1 / metabolism
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Iron Deficiencies
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications*
  • Receptors, Erythropoietin / metabolism
  • Uremia / blood


  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1
  • Receptors, Erythropoietin
  • Erythropoietin