Chronic kidney disease (CKD) carries a large cardiovascular burden in part due to hypertension and neurohumoral dysfunction – manifesting as sympathetic overactivity, baroreflex dysfunction and chronically elevated circulating vasopressin. Alterations within the central nervous system (CNS) are necessary for the expression of neurohumoral dysfunction in CKD; however, the underlying mechanisms are poorly defined. Uraemic toxins are a diverse group of compounds that accumulate as a direct result of renal disease and drive dysfunction in multiple organs, including the brain. Intensive haemodialysis improves both sympathetic overactivity and cardiac baroreflex sensitivity in renal failure patients, indicating that uraemic toxins participate in the maintenance of autonomic dysfunction in CKD. In rodents exposed to uraemia, immediate early gene expression analysis suggests upregulated activity of not only pre-sympathetic but also vasopressin-secretory nuclei. We outline several potential mechanisms by which uraemia might drive neurohumoral dysfunction in CKD. These include superoxide-dependent effects on neural activity, depletion of nitric oxide and induction of low-grade systemic inflammation. Recent evidence has highlighted superoxide production as an intermediate for the depolarizing effect of some uraemic toxins on neuronal cells. We provide preliminary data indicating augmented superoxide production within the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus in the Lewis polycystic kidney rat, which might be important for mediating the neurohumoral dysfunction exhibited in this CKD model. We speculate that the uraemic state might serve to sensitize the central actions of other sympathoexcitatory factors, including renal afferent nerve inputs to the CNS and angiotensin II, by way of recruiting convergent superoxide-dependent and pro-inflammatory pathways.
- chronic kidney disease