Does uremia cause vascular dysfunction?

Kidney Blood Press Res. 2011;34(4):284-90. doi: 10.1159/000327131. Epub 2011 Jun 21.


Vascular dysfunction induced by uremia has 4 main aspects. (1) Atherosclerosis is increased. Intima-media thickness is increased, and animal studies have established that uremia accelerates atherosclerosis. Uremic toxins are involved in several steps of atherosclerosis. Leukocyte activation is stimulated by guanidines, advanced glycation end products (AGE), p-cresyl sulfate, platelet diadenosine polyphosphates, and indoxyl sulfate. Endothelial adhesion molecules are stimulated by indoxyl sulfate. Migration and proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) are stimulated by local inflammation which could be triggered by indoxyl sulfate and AGE. Uremia is associated with an increase in von Willebrand factor, thrombomodulin, plasminogen activator inhibitor 1, and matrix metalloproteinases. These factors contribute to thrombosis and plaque destabilization. There is also a decrease in nitric oxide (NO) availability, due to asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA), AGE, and oxidative stress. Moreover, circulating endothelial microparticles (EMP) are increased in uremia, and inhibit the NO pathway. EMP are induced in vitro by indoxyl sulfate and p-cresyl sulfate. (2) Arterial stiffness occurs due to the loss of compliance of the vascular wall which induces an increase in pulse pressure leading to left ventricular hypertrophy and a decrease in coronary perfusion. Implicated uremic toxins are ADMA, AGE, and oxidative stress. (3) Vascular calcifications are increased in uremia. Their formation involves a transdifferentiation process of VSMC into osteoblast-like cells. Implicated uremic toxins are mainly inorganic phosphate, as well as reactive oxygen species, tumor necrosis factor and leptin. (4) Abnormalities of vascular repair and neointimal hyperplasia are due to VSMC proliferation and lead to severe reduction of vascular lumen. Restenosis after coronary angioplasty is higher in dialysis than in nondialysis patients. Arteriovenous fistula stenosis is the most common cause of thrombosis. Uremic toxins such as indoxyl sulfate and some guanidine compounds inhibit endothelial proliferation and wound repair. Endothelial progenitor cells which contribute to vessel repair are decreased and impaired in uremia, related to high serum levels of β(2)-microglobulin and indole-3 acetic acid. Overall, there is a link between kidney function and cardiovascular risk, as emphasized by recent meta-analyses. Moreover, an association has been reported between cardiovascular mortality and uremic toxins such as indoxyl sulfate, p-cresol and p-cresyl sulfate.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / pathology
  • Uremia / complications*
  • Vascular Calcification / pathology
  • Vascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Vascular Diseases / pathology