Background: Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is associated with accelerated atherosclerosis and an inadequate inflammatory response which may account for the high morbidity and mortality observed in this population. In vitro and preclinical evidence suggests that the tumour necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) might be involved in both the atherosclerosis pathway and modulation of the inflammatory response. The aim of the present study was thus to (i) determine serum levels of soluble TRAIL (sTRAIL) in a cohort of CKD patients, (ii) assess the relationship between sTRAIL and other inflammatory biomarkers (C-reactive protein and albumin) and (iii) evaluate the association between serum sTRAIL levels and the mortality risk.
Methods: One hundred and thirty patients (mean +/- SD age: 67 +/- 12; 62% males; 8% at CKD stage 2, 26% at stage 3, 27% at stage 4, 8% at stage 5 and 31% at stage 5D) were assayed for sTRAIL and the selected biochemical parameters and then prospectively monitored for mortality.
Results: CKD stage 5D patients had significantly lower serum sTRAIL levels (median: 46 pg/ml) than patients at CKD stages 2 and 3 (median: 62 pg/ml) or stages 4 and 5 (median: 71 pg/ml). There was no correlation between serum sTRAIL and the estimated glomerular filtration rate (GFR) (r(2) = 0.017, P = 0.22) in pre-dialysis patients. In a multivariate regression analysis, the body mass index (beta = 1.48, P = 0.001) and the serum C-reactive protein (CRP) level (beta = -8.841, P < 0.0001) were independently associated with serum sTRAIL. During follow-up (mean: 772 +/- 286 days), 36 patients died (19 from cardiovascular events, 8 from infectious events and 9 from other causes). The lowest sTRAIL levels (first tertile) were associated with the worst all-cause survival (P = 0.010). Cox regression analyses (with non-cumulative models including age, albumin and CRP as covariates) confirmed the low serum sTRAIL level (first tertile) as an independent predictor of all-cause mortality.
Conclusions: Circulating sTRAIL is a negative marker for inflammation and is inversely associated with the mortality risk in CKD patients. Further studies are needed to better understand the role of sTRAIL as an inflammatory marker and to confirm its protective role in the CKD population.