Mechanisms and consequences of carbamoylation

Nat Rev Nephrol. 2017 Sep;13(9):580-593. doi: 10.1038/nrneph.2017.103. Epub 2017 Jul 31.


Protein carbamoylation is a non-enzymatic post-translational modification that binds isocyanic acid, which can be derived from the dissociation of urea or from the myeloperoxidase-mediated catabolism of thiocyanate, to the free amino groups of a multitude of proteins. Although the term 'carbamoylation' is usually replaced by the term "carbamylation" in the literature, carbamylation refers to a different chemical reaction (the reversible interaction of CO2 with α and ε-amino groups of proteins). Depending on the altered molecule (for example, collagen, erythropoietin, haemoglobin, low-density lipoprotein or high-density lipoprotein), carbamoylation can have different pathophysiological effects. Carbamoylated proteins have been linked to atherosclerosis, lipid metabolism, immune system dysfunction (such as inhibition of the classical complement pathway, inhibition of complement-dependent rituximab cytotoxicity, reduced oxidative neutrophil burst, and the formation of anti-carbamoylated protein antibodies) and renal fibrosis. In this Review, we discuss the carbamoylation process and evaluate the available biomarkers of carbamoylation (for example, homocitrulline, the percentage of carbamoylated albumin, carbamoylated haemoglobin, and carbamoylated low-density lipoprotein). We also discuss the relationship between carbamoylation and the occurrence of cardiovascular events and mortality in patients with chronic kidney disease and assess the effects of strategies to lower the carbamoylation load.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Erythropoietin / physiology
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / metabolism*
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Urea / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Hemoglobins
  • Erythropoietin
  • Urea