The Dual Roles of Protein-Bound Solutes as Toxins and Signaling Molecules in Uremia

Rosalinde Masereeuw

Published: June 2022


In patients with severe kidney disease, renal clearance is compromised, resulting in the accumulation of a plethora of endogenous waste molecules that cannot be removed by current dialysis techniques, the most often applied treatment. These uremic retention solutes, also named uremic toxins, are a heterogeneous group of organic compounds of which many are too large to be filtered and/or are protein-bound. Their renal excretion depends largely on renal tubular secretion, by which the binding is shifted towards the free fraction that can be eliminated. To facilitate this process, kidney proximal tubule cells are equipped with a range of transport proteins that cooperate in cellular uptake and urinary excretion. In recent years, innovations in dialysis techniques to advance uremic toxin removal, as well as treatments with drugs and/or dietary supplements that limit uremic toxin production, have provided some clinical improvements or are still in progress. This review gives an overview of these developments. Furthermore, the role protein-bound uremic toxins play in inter-organ communication, in particular between the gut (the side where toxins are produced) and the kidney (the side of their removal), is discussed.

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