Elevation of Trimethylamine-N-Oxide in Chronic Kidney Disease: Contribution of Decreased Glomerular Filtration Rate

Toxins (Basel). 2019 Nov 1;11(11):635. doi: 10.3390/toxins11110635.


Gut microbiota-dependent Trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) has been reported to be strongly linked to renal function and to increased cardiovascular events in the general population and in Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) patients. Considering the lack of data assessing renal handling of TMAO, we conducted this study to explore renal excretion and mechanisms of accumulation of TMAO during CKD. We prospectively measured glomerular filtration rate (mGFR) with gold standard methods and plasma concentrations of trimethylamine (TMA), TMAO, choline, betaine, and carnitine by LC-MS/MS in 124 controls, CKD, and hemodialysis (HD) patients. Renal clearance of each metabolite was assessed in a sub-group of 32 patients. Plasma TMAO was inversely correlated with mGFR (r2 = 0.388, p < 0.001), confirming elevation of TMAO plasma levels in CKD. TMAO clearances were not significantly different from mGFR, with a mean ± SD TMAO fractional excretion of 105% ± 32%. This suggests a complete renal excretion of TMAO by glomerular filtration with a negligible participation of tubular secretion or reabsorption, during all stages of CKD. Moreover, TMAO was effectively removed within 4 h of hemodiafiltration, showing a higher fractional reduction value than that of urea (84.9% ± 6.5% vs. 79.2% ± 5.7%, p = 0.04). This study reports a strong correlation between plasma TMAO levels and mGFR, in CKD, that can be mainly related to a decrease in TMAO glomerular filtration. Clearance data did not support a significant role for tubular secretion in TMAO renal elimination.

Keywords: Trimethylamine-N-oxide; chronic kidney disease; hemodialysis; renal clearance; uremic toxin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Betaine / blood
  • Choline / blood
  • Creatinine / blood
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Clearance Rate
  • Methylamines / blood*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Renal Dialysis*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / blood*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / therapy


  • Methylamines
  • Betaine
  • Creatinine
  • trimethyloxamine
  • trimethylamine
  • Choline