Background: Endothelial dysfunction contributes to accelerated atherosclerosis in chronic kidney disease (CKD). Bone marrow-derived endothelial progenitor cells (EPC) constitute an endogenous vascular repair system protecting against atherosclerosis. Smooth muscle progenitor cells (SPC) may stimulate atherosclerosis development. We hypothesized that an imbalance in EPC and SPC occurs in CKD, which may contribute to the increased cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk.
Methods: EPC and SPC outgrowth from mononuclear cells (MNC), EPC migratory function and circulating CD34(+)KDR(+)-EPC were measured in 49 patients with varying degrees of CKD on regular therapy and 33 healthy volunteers. Renal function, CKD cause, CVD history and endothelial dysfunction parameters were determined as factors of influence on progenitor cells.
Results: Patients had reduced EPC outgrowth compared to controls [9 (2-22) vs 12 (1-38) cells/10(3) MNC, P = 0.026], independent of CKD cause and degree, whereas SPC outgrowth levels were higher in patients with more impaired kidney function (r = -0.397, P = 0.008). Patients had lower CD34(+)KDR(+)-EPC compared to controls [9 (0-52) vs 19 (4-110) cells/10(5) granulocytes, P = 0.004]. CVD history and increased endothelial dysfunction markers were related to lower EPC levels. Progenitor cell outgrowth was shifted towards SPC with progression of endothelial damage. Reduction in EPC could not be attributed to decreases in progenitor cell-mobilizing factors SDF-1 alpha and VEGF as levels increased with progressive kidney and endothelial dysfunction, while EPC remained low.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that, already in mild CKD, EPC-mediated endogenous vascular regeneration is impaired, while SPC levels increase with declining kidney function.