Altered intestinal microbial flora and impaired epithelial barrier structure and function in CKD: the nature, mechanisms, consequences and potential treatment

Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2016 May;31(5):737-46. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfv095. Epub 2015 Apr 16.


Chronic kidney disease (CKD) results in systemic inflammation and oxidative stress which play a central role in CKD progression and its adverse consequences. Although many of the causes and consequences of oxidative stress and inflammation in CKD have been extensively explored, little attention had been paid to the intestine and its microbial flora as a potential source of these problems. Our recent studies have revealed significant disruption of the colonic, ileal, jejunal and gastric epithelial tight junction in different models of CKD in rats. Moreover, the disruption of the epithelial barrier structure and function found in uremic animals was replicated in cultured human colonocytes exposed to uremic human plasma in vitro We have further found significant changes in the composition and function of colonic bacterial flora in humans and animals with advanced CKD. Together, uremia-induced impairment of the intestinal epithelial barrier structure and function and changes in composition of the gut microbiome contribute to the systemic inflammation and uremic toxicity by accommodating the translocation of endotoxin, microbial fragments and other noxious luminal products in the circulation. In addition, colonic bacteria are the main source of several well-known pro-inflammatory uremic toxins such as indoxyl sulfate, p-cresol sulfate, trimethylamine-N-oxide and many as-yet unidentified retained compounds in end-stage renal disease patients. This review is intended to provide an overview of the effects of CKD on the gut microbiome and intestinal epithelial barrier structure and their role in the pathogenesis of systemic inflammation and uremic toxicity. In addition, potential interventions aimed at mitigating these abnormalities are briefly discussed.

Keywords: cardiovascular disease; end-stage renal disease; microbiome; oxidative stress; uremia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane Permeability*
  • Epithelium / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / etiology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / complications*
  • Tight Junctions / metabolism
  • Tight Junctions / pathology*