Pathogenesis of hypertension in renal failure: Role of the sympathetic nervous system and renal afferents

Jacqueline K. Phillips*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


The kidney receives a dense innervation of sympathetic and sensory fibres and can be both a target of sympathetic activity and a source of signals that drive sympathetic tone. In the normal state, interactions between the kidney and sympathetic nervous system (SNS) serve to maintain blood pressure and glomerular filtration rate within tightly controlled levels. In renal failure, a defect in renal sodium excretory function leads to an abnormal pressure natriuresis relationship and activation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, contributing to the development of hypertension and progression of kidney disease. Evidence now strongly indicates a role for the SNS in the pathogenesis of hypertension in renal failure. Hypertension occurs commonly and early in renal disease and is paralleled by increases in SNS activity, as indicated by increased muscle sympathetic nerve activity and circulating catecholamines. This appears to be driven by the diseased kidneys, because nephrectomy or denervation has been shown to correct blood pressure and SNS activity in human and animal studies. 3. Afferent signals from the kidney, detected by chemoreceptors and mechanoreceptors, feed directly into central nuclei of the SNS, including the hypothalamus and circumventricular organs, in addition to the stimulus provided by circulating and brain-derived angiotensin II. Therefore, the pathogenesis of hypertension in renal failure is complex and arises from the interaction of haemodynamic and neuroendocrine factors. Increased SNS activity has significant implications with regard to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and is an important consideration in the treatment of renal failure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-418
Number of pages4
JournalClinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - May 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Efferent
  • Muscle sympathetic nerve activity
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system
  • Renovascular hypertension


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