Background: The microbial metabolite Trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) has been linked to adverse cardiovascular outcome and mortality in the general population.
Objective: To assess the contribution of TMAO to inflammation and mortality in chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients ranging from mild-moderate to end-stage disease and 1) associations with glomerular filtration rate (GFR) 2) effect of dialysis and renal transplantation (Rtx) 3) association with inflammatory biomarkers and 4) its predictive value for all-cause mortality.
Methods: Levels of metabolites were quantified by a novel liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry-based method in fasting plasma samples from 80 controls and 179 CKD 3-5 patients. Comorbidities, nutritional status, biomarkers of inflammation and GFR were assessed.
Results: GFR was the dominant variable affecting TMAO (β = -0.41; p<0.001), choline (β = -0.38; p<0.001), and betaine (β = 0.45; p<0.001) levels. A longitudinal study of 74 CKD 5 patients starting renal replacement therapy demonstrated that whereas dialysis treatment did not affect TMAO, Rtx reduced levels of TMAO to that of controls (p<0.001). Following Rtx choline and betaine levels continued to increase. In CKD 3-5, TMAO levels were associated with IL-6 (Rho = 0.42; p<0.0001), fibrinogen (Rho = 0.43; p<0.0001) and hsCRP (Rho = 0.17; p = 0.022). Higher TMAO levels were associated with an increased risk for all-cause mortality that remained significant after multivariate adjustment (HR 4.32, 95% CI 1.32-14.2; p = 0.016).
Conclusion: Elevated TMAO levels are strongly associated with degree of renal function in CKD and normalize after renal transplantation. TMAO levels correlates with increased systemic inflammation and is an independent predictor of mortality in CKD 3-5 patients.