Endothelial glycocalyx damage in kidney disease correlates with uraemic toxins and endothelial dysfunction

Hui Liew, Matthew A. Roberts, Alun Pope, Lawrence P. McMahon

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24 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Damage to the endothelial glycocalyx is an early indicator of vascular damage and a potential marker of endothelial dysfunction. This study aimed to assess the relationship between markers of glycocalyx damage, endothelial dysfunction, and uraemic toxins in patients with chronic kidney disease. Methods: Healthy controls, CKD patients, dialysis patients, and kidney transplant recipients had biochemical markers of glycocalyx damage (syndecan-1 and hyaluronan), endothelial dysfunction (von Willebrand factor; vWF and vascular cell adhesion molecule; VCAM-1), and uraemic toxins (indoxyl sulphate and p-cresyl sulphate) measured. In addition, Sidestream Darkfield imaging was performed using the novel GlycoCheck™ device to measure glycocalyx width by the perfused boundary region (PBR) in the sublingual microcirculation. Results: Serum markers of glycocalyx damage were highest in the dialysis group (n = 33), followed by CKD patients (n = 32) and kidney transplant recipients (n = 30) compared to controls (n = 30): hyaluronan: 137 (16-1414), 79 (11–257), 57 (14–218) and 23 (8-116) ng/mL, respectively, p < 0.0001; syndecan-1: 81 (40–529), 46 (21–134), 39 (23–72), and 30 (12–138) ng/mL, respectively, p < 0.0001. Markers of endothelial dysfunction followed a similar pattern. No difference in the width of the PBR was detected between these groups (2.01 ± 0.35, 2.07 ± 0.27, 2.06 ± 0.28, and 2.05 ± 0.3 µm, respectively, p = 0.89). Glycocalyx damage correlated with markers of endothelial dysfunction (log-hyaluronan and log-VCAM-1: r = 0.64, p < 0.001) and levels of uraemic toxins (log-hyaluronan and log-indoxyl sulphate: r = 0.48, p < 0.001). Conclusions: Levels of biochemical markers of glycocalyx and endothelial cell damage are highest in patients receiving dialysis. Glycocalyx and endothelial damage markers correlated with each other, and with uraemic toxins. Although we could not demonstrate a change in PBR, the biochemical markers suggest that glycocalyx damage is most marked in patients with higher levels of uraemic toxins.

Original languageEnglish
Article number21
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Nephrology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • CKD
  • Endothelial dysfunction
  • Glycocalyx
  • Sidestream Darkfield
  • Uraemia

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