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1.  The effects of linagliptin on endothelial function and global arginine bioavailability ratio in coronary artery disease patients with early diabetes: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2016;17:495.
Patients with type 2 diabetes (T2DM) are at increased risk for macrovascular events as well as for microvascular complications. There is evidence that in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD), about 35 % suffer from manifest T2DM. Early glucose-lowering intervention in subjects with T2DM has been demonstrated to be beneficial in terms of cardiovascular risk reduction. But thus far, no data are available regarding investigating the impact of linagliptin treatment in patients with early diabetes on cardiovascular endpoints or surrogate parameters. Therefore, the aim of this study is to investigate the effects of linagliptin in CAD patients with early T2DM on various cardiovascular surrogate measurements including mechanical and biochemical endothelial function assessments.
Forty-two subjects with early diabetes and CAD are included in this investigator-driven, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, phase IV, single-center study. Participants will be randomized to receive either linagliptin (5 mg) administered once daily per os or placebo for 12 weeks. Before and after the intervention, evaluation of endothelial function (flow-mediated dilatation and biochemical biomarkers) and a Meal Tolerance Test are performed.
Cardiovascular surrogate parameters, such as endothelial function, are able to provide insights into the potential mechanisms of the cardiovascular effects of antihyperglycemic agents. Currently ongoing trials do not specifically focus on early diabetes as a target of intervention and we therefore believe that our study will contribute to a better understanding of the cardiovascular effects of dipeptidylpeptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors in early diabetes.
Trial registration
NCT02350478. Registered 26 January 2015. Protocol date/version 24 October 2014/version 2.4
EudraCT number: 2013-000330-35
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13063-016-1627-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC5062940  PMID: 27733180
Linagliptin; DPP-4 inhibitor; Endothelial function; Global arginine bioavailability ratio; Coronary artery disease; Type 2 diabetes mellitus
2.  Branched-Chain Amino Acids as New Biomarkers of Major Depression - A Novel Neurobiology of Mood Disorder 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(8):e0160542.
The proteinogenic branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) valine, leucine and isoleucine might play an unrecognised crucial role in the development of depression through their activation of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTor) pathway. The aim of this research project is to evaluate whether BCAAs are altered in patients with major depression and might thus be appropriate biomarkers for major depression.
The concentrations of valine, leucine and isoleucine were determined in 71 in-patients with major depression and 48 healthy controls by high-pressure liquid chromatography. Psychiatric and laboratory assessments were obtained at the time of in-patient admittance.
The BCAAs are significantly decreased in patients with major depression in comparison with healthy subjects (valine: Mann-Whitney-U: 968.0; p <0.0001, leucine: Mann-Whitney-U: 1246.5; p = 0.013, isoleucine: Mann-Whitney-U: 1252.5; p = 0.014). Furthermore, as shown by Spearman's rank correlation coefficients, there is a significant negative correlation between valine, leucine and isoleucine concentrations and the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD-17) as well as Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II) scores.
Our study results are strong evidence that in patients with major depression, BCAAs might be appropriate biomarkers for depression. Reduced activation of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTor) due to a reduction of BCAAs might play a crucial unrecognised factor in the etiology of depression and may evoke depressive symptomatology and lower energy metabolism in patients with major depression. In the future, mTor and its up- and downstream signalling partners might be important targets for the development of novel antidepressants.
PMCID: PMC4973973  PMID: 27490818
3.  Characterisation of Candida within the Mycobiome/Microbiome of the Lower Respiratory Tract of ICU Patients 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(5):e0155033.
Whether the presence of Candida spp. in lower respiratory tract (LRT) secretions is a marker of underlying disease, intensive care unit (ICU) treatment and antibiotic therapy or contributes to poor clinical outcome is unclear. We investigated healthy controls, patients with proposed risk factors for Candida growth in LRT (antibiotic therapy, ICU treatment with and without antibiotic therapy), ICU patients with pneumonia and antibiotic therapy and candidemic patients (for comparison of truly invasive and colonizing Candida spp.). Fungal patterns were determined by conventional culture based microbiology combined with molecular approaches (next generation sequencing, multilocus sequence typing) for description of fungal and concommitant bacterial microbiota in LRT, and host and fungal biomarkes were investigated. Admission to and treatment on ICUs shifted LRT fungal microbiota to Candida spp. dominated fungal profiles but antibiotic therapy did not. Compared to controls, Candida was part of fungal microbiota in LRT of ICU patients without pneumonia with and without antibiotic therapy (63% and 50% of total fungal genera) and of ICU patients with pneumonia with antibiotic therapy (73%) (p<0.05). No case of invasive candidiasis originating from Candida in the LRT was detected. There was no common bacterial microbiota profile associated or dissociated with Candida spp. in LRT. Colonizing and invasive Candida strains (from candidemic patients) did not match to certain clades withdrawing the presence of a particular pathogenic and invasive clade. The presence of Candida spp. in the LRT rather reflected rapidly occurring LRT dysbiosis driven by ICU related factors than was associated with invasive candidiasis.
PMCID: PMC4874575  PMID: 27206014
4.  Activation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase by the pro-apoptotic drug embelin: Striking discrepancy between nitric oxide-mediated cyclic GMP accumulation and l-citrulline formation 
The benzoquinone derivative embelin is a multifunctional drug that not only induces apoptosis by inhibiting XIAP, the X chromosome-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein, but also blocks nuclear factor-κB signaling pathways, thereby leading to down-regulation of a variety of gene products involved in tumor cell survival, proliferation, invasion, angiogenesis, and inflammation. Here, we report that embelin activates and modulates l-arginine/nitric oxide/cyclic GMP signaling in cultured endothelial cells. Embelin elicited a rapid increase of intracellular free Ca2+, leading to activation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) and NO-induced cGMP accumulation. While the cGMP response was comparable to that caused by other Ca2+-mobilizing agents, the stimulatory effect of embelin on l-citrulline formation (~4-fold) was substantially lower than that observed upon activation of eNOS with the Ca2+ ionophore A23187 (~18-fold), the receptor agonist ATP (~16-fold) or the sarco-endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPase inhibitor thapsigargin (~14-fold). The apparent discrepancy between NO/cGMP and l-citrulline formation in embelin-treated cells was not due to enhanced metabolism and/or efflux of l-citrulline, increased NO bioavailability, inhibition of cGMP hydrolysis, sensitization of soluble guanylate cyclase (sGC) to NO, or enhanced formation of a sGC/eNOS complex. Our puzzling observations suggest that embelin improves coupling of endothelial NO synthesis to sGC activation through mobilization of an as yet unrecognized signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC4845887  PMID: 20144727
Embelin; Endothelial nitric oxide synthase; l-Citrulline; Nitric oxide; Soluble guanylate cyclase; cGMP
5.  Acute Physiological Responses to Short- and Long-Stage High-Intensity Interval Exercise in Cardiac Rehabilitation: A Pilot Study 
Despite described benefits of aerobic high-intensity interval exercise (HIIE), the acute responses during different HIIE modes and associated health risks have only been sparsely discovered in heart disease patients. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the acute responses for physiological parameters, cardiovascular and inflammatory biomarkers, and catecholamines yielded by two different aerobic HIIE protocols compared to continuous exercise (CE) in phase III cardiac rehabilitation. Eight cardiac patients (7 with coronary heart disease, 1 with myocarditis; 7 males, 1 female; age: 63.0 ± 9.4 years; height: 1.74 ± 0.05 m; weight: 83.6 ± 8.7 kg), all but one treated with ß-blocking agents, performed a maximal symptom-limited incremental exercise test (IET) and three different exercise tests matched for mean load (Pmean) and total duration: 1) short HIIE with a peak workload duration (tpeak) of 20 s and a peak workload (Ppeak) equal to the maximum power output (Pmax) from IET; 2) long HIIE with a tpeak of 4 min, Ppeak was corresponding to the power output at 85 % of maximal heart rate (HRmax) from IET; 3) CE with a target workload equal to Pmean of both HIIE modes. Acute metabolic and peak cardiorespiratory responses were significantly higher during long HIIE compared to short HIIE and CE (p < 0.05) except HRpeak which tended to be higher in long HIIE than in short HIIE (p = 0.08). Between short HIIE and CE, no significant difference was found for any parameter. Acute responses of cardiovascular and inflammatory biomarkers and catecholamines didn’t show any significant difference between tests (p > 0.05). All health-related variables remained in a normal range in any test except NT-proBNP, which was already elevated at baseline. Despite a high Ppeak particularly in short HIIE, both HIIE modes were as safe and as well tolerated as moderate CE in cardiac patients by using our methodological approach.
Key pointsHigh-intensity interval exercise (HIIE) with short peak workload durations (tpeak) induce a lower acute metabolic and peak cardiorespiratory response compared to intervals with long tpeak despite higher peak workload intensities and identical mean load. No significant difference for any physiological parameter was found between short HIIE and CE.Between short HIIE, long HIIE, and CE, no significant difference was found in the increase (or decrease, respectively,) of health related markers such as cardiovascular biomarkers, catecholamines, or inflammatory parameters during exercise.During all exercise modes, all risk markers remained in a normal range except for NT-proBNP which was, however, already elevated at baseline.Short HIIE, long HIIE, and CE were safely performed by patients with CHD or myocarditis in cardiac rehabilitation by using our methodological approach to exercise prescription. This approach included the prescription of exercise intensities with respect to LTP1, LTP2, and Pmax as well as a conscious setting of Pmean at a moderate level (80 % of PLTP2). Importantly, all exercise modes were matched for Pmean and exercise duration in order to enable a comparison of the three protocols.
PMCID: PMC4763850  PMID: 26957930
intermittent exercise; exercise prescription; acute effects; health-related markers; heart disease patients
6.  Concomitant Prevalence of Low Serum Diamine Oxidase Activity and Carbohydrate Malabsorption 
The aim of this retrospective study was to analyze the concomitant prevalence rates for lactose malabsorption (LM), fructose malabsorption (FM), and histamine intolerance (HI) in patients with so far unexplained gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms. A total of 439 outpatients, who presented unclear abdominal discomfort, underwent lactose (50 g) and fructose (25 g) hydrogen (H2) breath tests. Additionally, serum diamine oxidase (DAO) measurements were performed. Individuals with low serum DAO activity (<10 U/mL), GI symptoms, and response to histamine-free diet were diagnosed with HI. Of all 439 patients, 341 (77.7%) were found with 7 various GI conditions. In total, 94 (21.4%), 31 (7.1%), and 100 (22.8%) individuals presented LM, FM, or HI only, whereas 116 (26.4%) patients showed an overlap of GI entities investigated here. Interestingly, 89 out of 241 (36.9%) individuals with carbohydrate malabsorption were also diagnosed with HI (LM + HI: 52 [11.8%], FM + HI: 23 [5.2%], and LM + FM + HI 14 [3.2%] individuals). In conclusion different combinations of LM, FM, and HI are present in individuals with unclear abdominal discomfort/pain. In clinical practice we suggest testing for LM, FM, and additional HI in the diagnostic work-up of these patients. Depending on these various diagnoses possible, patients should get an individualized dietary advice.
PMCID: PMC5155086  PMID: 28042564
7.  Nitric Oxide-Related Biological Pathways in Patients with Major Depression 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(11):e0143397.
Major depression is a well-known risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and increased mortality following myocardial infarction. However, biomarkers of depression and increased cardiovascular risk are still missing. The aim of this prospective study was to evaluate, whether nitric-oxide (NO) related factors for endothelial dysfunction, such as global arginine bioavailability, arginase activity, L-arginine/ADMA ratio and the arginine metabolites asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) and symmetric dimethylarginine (SDMA) might be biomarkers for depression-induced cardiovascular risk.
In 71 in-patients with major depression and 48 healthy controls the Global Arginine Bioavailability Ratio (GABR), arginase activity (arginine/ornithine ratio), the L-arginine/ADMA ratio, ADMA, and SDMA were determined by high-pressure liquid chromatography. Psychiatric and laboratory assessments were obtained at baseline at the time of in-patient admittance and at the time of hospital discharge.
The ADMA concentrations in patients with major depression were significantly elevated and the SDMA concentrations were significantly decreased in comparison with the healthy controls. Even after a first improvement of depression, ADMA and SDMA levels remained nearly unchanged. In addition, after a first improvement of depression at the time of hospital discharge, a significant decrease in arginase activity, an increased L-arginine/ADMA ratio and a trend for increased global arginine bioavailability were observed.
Our study results are evidence that in patients with major depression ADMA and SDMA might be biomarkers to indicate an increased cardiovascular threat due to depression-triggered NO reduction. GABR, the L-arginine/ADMA ratio and arginase activity might be indicators of therapy success and increased NO production after remission.
PMCID: PMC4651499  PMID: 26581044
8.  Quinolinic Acid Responses during Interferon-α-Induced Depressive Symptomatology in Patients with Chronic Hepatitis C Infection - A Novel Aspect for Depression and Inflammatory Hypothesis 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(9):e0137022.
The aim of this exploratory study is to gain for the first time a more comprehensive picture of the impact of changes of quinolinic acid concentrations on depressive symptomatology during and after IFN-α therapy.
The quinolinic acid concentrations of 35 HCV patients are examined in a prospective survey over the entire period of IFN-α treatment as well as three months later at six different times (baseline, one, three, six and nine months after the beginning of IFN-α treatment, and after the end of treatment).
During IFN-α treatment Hamilton Depression Rating Scale scores rise significantly. At the same time there is greater activity of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase, with a resulting increase in plasma kynurenine concentrations. Compared to baseline values quinolinic acid concentrations increase significantly during therapy, reflecting an increased neurotoxic challenge. In addition, patients with higher scores in the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale at six and nine months after starting therapy show significantly higher levels of quinolinic acid concentration.
The increase of quinolinic acid during IFN-α therapy might contribute to depressive symptomatology through the neurotoxic challenge caused by quinolinic acid. Subsequently, our exploratory study results support the inflammatory hypothesis of depression. The awareness of relevant risk factors of IFN-α treatment-induced depression is essential to develop preventative treatment strategies.
PMCID: PMC4569409  PMID: 26368809
9.  Synergistic effects of NOD1 or NOD2 and TLR4 activation on mouse sickness behavior in relation to immune and brain activity markers☆ 
Brain, Behavior, and Immunity  2015;44:106-120.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and nuclear-binding domain (NOD)-like receptors (NLRs) are sensors of bacterial cell wall components to trigger an immune response. The TLR4 agonist lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is a strong immune activator leading to sickness and depressed mood. NOD agonists are less active but can prime immune cells to augment LPS-induced cytokine production. Since the impact of NOD and TLR co-activation in vivo has been little studied, the effects of the NOD1 agonist FK565 and the NOD2 agonist muramyl dipeptide (MDP), alone and in combination with LPS, on immune activation, brain function and sickness behavior were investigated in male C57BL/6N mice.
Intraperitoneal injection of FK565 (0.001 or 0.003 mg/kg) or MDP (1 or 3 mg/kg) 4 h before LPS (0.1 or 0.83 mg/kg) significantly aggravated and prolonged the LPS-evoked sickness behavior as deduced from a decrease in locomotion, exploration, food intake and temperature. When given alone, FK565 and MDP had only minor effects. The exacerbation of sickness behavior induced by FK565 or MDP in combination with LPS was paralleled by enhanced plasma protein and cerebral mRNA levels of proinflammatory cytokines (IFN-γ, IL-1β, IL-6, TNF-α) as well as enhanced plasma levels of kynurenine. Immunohistochemical visualization of c-Fos in the brain revealed that NOD2 synergism with TLR4 resulted in increased activation of cerebral nuclei relevant to sickness.
These data show that NOD1 or NOD2 synergizes with TLR4 in exacerbating the immune, sickness and brain responses to peripheral immune stimulation.
Our findings demonstrate that the known interactions of NLRs and TLRs at the immune cell level extend to interactions affecting brain function and behavior.
PMCID: PMC4295938  PMID: 25218901
Anxiety; c-Fos; Corticosterone; FK565; Food intake; Kynurenine; Lipopolysaccharide; Locomotion; Muramyl dipeptide; Proinflammatory cytokines
10.  Endothelial Dysfunction and Brachial Intima-Media Thickness: Long Term Cardiovascular Risk with Claudication Related to Peripheral Arterial Disease: A Prospective Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93357.
Endothelial dysfunction plays a key role in the development, progression, and clinical manifestation of atherosclerosis, and in symptomatic peripheral arterial disease, endothelial dysfunction and enlarged intima-media thickness might be associated with increased cardiovascular risk. Flow-mediated dilatation and serologic parameters are used to evaluate individual endothelial function. Brachial intima-media thickness, a less recognized parameter of cardiovascular risk, is independently associated with coronary artery disease. The aim of this study was to evaluate the prognostic value of ultrasound and serologic parameters of endothelial function in relation to cardiovascular mortality in peripheral arterial disease.
monocentric, prospective cohort study.
Flow mediated dilatation and brachial intima-media thickness were assessed in 184 (124 male) patients with peripheral arterial disease (Rutherford stages 2–3). Serologic parameters of endothelial function included asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA), symmetric dimethylarginine (SDMA), and L-homoarginine. Cardiovascular events were recorded during a follow-up of 99.1±11.1 months. Subjects who died of noncardiovascular causes were excluded from further analysis.
Eighty-two patients (44.6%) died during follow-up after a mean duration of 49.7±28.3 months. There were 49 cardiovascular deaths (59.8%) and 33 other deaths (40.2%). Flow mediated dilatation was associated with cardiovascular death [1.17% (0.0, 4.3) vs. 4.1% (1.2, 6.4), p<0.001]. Intima-media thickness was greater in patients who succumbed to cardiovascular disease [0.37 mm (0.30, 0.41)] than in survivors [0.21 mm (0.15, 0.38), p<0.001]. Brachial intima-media thickness above 0.345 mm was most predictive of cardiovascular death, with sensitivity and specificity values of 0.714 and 0.657, respectively (p<0.001). Furthermore, ADMA levels above 0.745 µmol/l and SDMA levels above 0.825 µmol/l were significantly associated with cardiovascular death (p<0.001 and 0.030).
In symptomatic peripheral arterial disease, decreased flow mediated dilatation, enlarged intima-media thickness, and elevated levels of ADMA and SDMA were associated with increased cardiovascular risk.
PMCID: PMC3989175  PMID: 24740106
11.  Immune Activation and Inflammation in Patients with Cardiovascular Disease Are Associated with Higher Phenylalanine to Tyrosine Ratios: The Ludwigshafen Risk and Cardiovascular Health Study 
Journal of Amino Acids  2014;2014:783730.
Higher serum neopterin is associated with increased mortality in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD). Preferentially Th1-type cytokine interferon-γ stimulates neopterin production by GTP cychlohydrolase I (GCH-I) in parallel in monocyte-derived macrophages and dendritic cells. In other cells, activation of GCH-I leads to the formation of 5,6,7,8-tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4), the necessary cofactor of amino acid hydroxylases like phenylalanine 4-hydroxylase (PAH). Serum concentrations of phenylalanine, tyrosine, neopterin, and high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) were measured in 1196 patients derived from the LUdwigshafen RIsk and Cardiovascular Health (LURIC) study, a cohort study among patients referred for coronary angiography. The phenylalanine to tyrosine ratio (Phe/Tyr) served as an estimate of phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH) enzyme activity. Serum concentrations of phenylalanine and tyrosine and of Phe/Tyr did not differ between individuals with or without CAD (Welch's t-test: P = n.s.). Higher neopterin and hsCRP concentrations were observed in CAD patients compared to controls (P < 0.0001) and they correlated with Phe/Tyr (Spearman's rank correlation for neopterin: rs = 0.216 and hsCRP: rs = 0.122; both of P < 0.0001) concentrations. In conclusion, immune activation is associated with higher Phe/Tyr in CAD patients. Data indicates subnormal PAH activity which might be involved in the precipitation of neuropsychiatric symptoms in patients.
PMCID: PMC3934657  PMID: 24660059
12.  Circulating Dopamine and C-Peptide Levels in Fasting Nondiabetic Hypertensive Patients 
Diabetes Care  2012;35(8):1771-1773.
Accumulating evidence supports a potential role for dopamine in the regulation of insulin secretion. We examined the association between circulating dopamine and C-peptide concentrations using data from the Graz Endocrine Causes of Hypertension (GECOH) study.
After 12 h of fasting, we measured plasma dopamine and serum C-peptide levels and established determining factors of insulin secretion in 201 nondiabetic hypertensive patients (mean age 48.1 ± 16.0 years; 61.7% women).
Mean dopamine and C-peptide concentration were 33.4 ± 38.6 pg/mL and 3.1 ± 2.7 ng/mL, respectively. A strong and inverse correlation was observed between dopamine and C-peptide levels (r = −0.423, P < 0.001). There was no significant relationship between C-peptide, plasma epinephrine, and norepinephrine. C-peptide levels decreased steadily and significantly from tertile 1 of dopamine (3.6 ng/mL [95% CI 2.9–4.1]) to tertile 3 (1.6 ng/mL [1.5–2.7], P < 0.001) after multivariate adjustment.
The inverse association between dopamine and C-peptide highlights the need to evaluate whether dopamine could be effective for modulating endocrine pancreatic function.
PMCID: PMC3402263  PMID: 22699284
13.  Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) determination via individual kinetics of the inulin-like polyfructosan sinistrin versus creatinine-based population-derived regression formulae 
BMC Nephrology  2013;14:159.
In renal patients estimation of GFR is routinely done by means of population-based formulae using serum creatinine levels. For GFR determination in the creatinine-blind regions or in cases of reno-hepatic syndrome as well as in critical cases of live kidney donors individualized measurements of GFR (mGFR) employing the kinetics of exogenous filtration markers such as the inulin-like polyfructosan sinistrin are necessary. The goal of this study is to compare mGFR values with the eGFR values gained by the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease (MDRD4) and Chronic Kidney Disease-Epidemiology Collaboration (CKD-EPI) formulae.
In 170 subjects comprising persons with normal renal function or with various stages of kidney diseases (CKD 1-4) GFR was measured by application of intravenous bolus of sinistrin and assessment of temporal plasma concentration profiles by means of pharmacokinetic methods (mGFR). Comparisons of mGFR with MDRD4- and CKD-EPI-derived eGFR values were performed by means of linear regression and Bland-Altman analyses.
Reasonable agreement of mGFR and eGFR values was observed in patients with poor renal function [GFR below 60 (ml/min)/1.73 m2]. In cases of normal or mildly impaired renal function, GFR determination by MDRD4 or CKD-EPI tends to underestimate GFR. Notably, there is practically no difference between the two eGFR methods.
For routine purposes or for epidemiological studies in cases of poor renal function eGFR methods are generally reliable. But in creatinine-blind ranges [GFR above 60 (ml/min)/1.73 m2] eGFR values are unreliable and should be replaced by clinically and physiologically suitable methods for mGFR determination.
PMCID: PMC3726368  PMID: 23876053
eGFR; MDRD; CKD-EPI; mGFR; Sinistrin; Kinetics
14.  Homoarginine and Progression of Chronic Kidney Disease: Results from the Mild to Moderate Kidney Disease Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63560.
Homoarginine is an amino acid derivative mainly synthesized in the kidney. It is suggested to increase nitric oxide availability, enhance endothelial function and to protect against cardiovascular diseases. We aimed to investigate the relation between homoarginine, kidney function and progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD).
We measured plasma homoarginine concentrations in baseline samples of the Mild to Moderate Kidney Disease (MMKD) Study, a prospective cohort study of 227 patients with CKD in Europe. Homoarginine concentrations were available in 182 of the baseline samples and in 139 of the prospectively-followed patients. We correlated homoarginine concentrations to parameters of kidney function. The association between homoarginine and progression of CKD was assessed during a follow-up of up to seven years (median 4.45 years, interquartile range 2.54–5.19) using Cox regression analysis. Progression of CKD was defined as doubling of baseline serum creatinine and/or end-stage renal disease.
Study participants were at baseline on average 47±13 years old and 65% were male. Mean±standard deviation of homoarginine concentrations were 2.5±1.1 µmol/L and concentrations were incrementally lower at lower levels of GFR with mean concentrations of 2.90±1.02 µmol/L (GFR>90 ml/min), 2.64±1.06 µmol/L (GFR 60–90 ml/min), 2.52±1.24 µmol/L (GFR 30–60 ml/min) and 2.05±0.78 µmol/L (GFR<30 ml/min), respectively (p = 0.002). The age- and sex-adjusted risk to reach the renal endpoint was significantly higher by 62% with each decrease by one standard deviation (1.1 µmol/L) of homoarginine (HR 1.62, 95% CI 1.16–2.27, p = 0.005). This association was independent of proteinuria (HR 1.56, 95% CI 1.11–2.20, p = 0.01), and was slightly attenuated when adjusting for GFR (HR 1.40 (95% CI 0.98–1.98, p = 0.06).
Homoarginine concentrations are directly correlated with kidney function and are significantly associated with the progression of CKD. Low homoarginine concentrations might be an early indicator of kidney failure and a potential target for the prevention of disease progression which needs further investigations.
PMCID: PMC3655120  PMID: 23691067
15.  Effect of eplerenone on parathyroid hormone levels in patients with primary hyperparathyroidism: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial 
Increasing evidence suggests the bidirectional interplay between parathyroid hormone and aldosterone as an important mechanism behind the increased risk of cardiovascular damage and bone disease observed in primary hyperparathyroidism. Our primary object is to assess the efficacy of the mineralocorticoid receptor-blocker eplerenone to reduce parathyroid hormone secretion in patients with parathyroid hormone excess.
Overall, 110 adult male and female patients with primary hyperparathyroidism will be randomly assigned to eplerenone (25 mg once daily for 4 weeks and 4 weeks with 50 mg once daily after dose titration] or placebo, over eight weeks. Each participant will undergo detailed clinical assessment, including anthropometric evaluation, 24-h ambulatory arterial blood pressure monitoring, echocardiography, kidney function and detailed laboratory determination of biomarkers of bone metabolism and cardiovascular disease.
The study comprises the following exploratory endpoints: mean change from baseline to week eight in (1) parathyroid hormone(1–84) as the primary endpoint and (2) 24-h systolic and diastolic ambulatory blood pressure levels, NT-pro-BNP, biomarkers of bone metabolism, 24-h urinary protein/albumin excretion and echocardiographic parameters reflecting systolic and diastolic function as well as cardiac dimensions, as secondary endpoints.
In view of the reciprocal interaction between aldosterone and parathyroid hormone and the potentially ensuing target organ damage, the EPATH trial is designed to determine whether eplerenone, compared to placebo, will effectively impact on parathyroid hormone secretion and improve cardiovascular, renal and bone health in patients with primary hyperparathyroidism.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC3515510  PMID: 22974443
Aldosterone; Mineralocorticoid receptor blocker; Hyperparathyroidism
16.  Associations of Sun Exposure with 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Parathyroid Hormone Levels in a Cohort of Hypertensive Patients: The Graz Endocrine Causes of Hypertension (GECOH) Study 
Sunlight-induced vitamin D, synthesis in the skin is the major source of vitamin D, but data on the relationship of sun-related behaviour with vitamin D and parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels are relatively sparse. We evaluated whether habitual sun exposure is associated with 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) and PTH levels and whether there exist seasonal variations. We examined 111 hypertensive patients in Austria (latitude 47° N). Frequent sunbathing at home and outdoor sports were associated with higher 25(OH)D levels (P < 0.05 for both). Red or blond scalp hair as a child, memory of sunburns, preferring sunbathing, frequent stays on the beach or in open-air pools, and solarium use were associated with lower PTH levels (P < 0.05 for all). Multiple linear regression analyses including age, sex, and body mass index showed that sun exposure score was significantly associated with 25(OH)D (beta coefficient = 0.27; P = 0.004) and by trend with PTH (beta coefficient = −0.16; P = 0.09). These associations were more prominent in summer in which 25(OH)D levels were significantly higher compared to winter. Translation of these findings into recommendations for the prevention and treatment of vitamin D deficiency remains a challenge for the future.
PMCID: PMC3296164  PMID: 22518130
17.  Homoarginine, heart failure, and sudden cardiac death in haemodialysis patients 
European Journal of Heart Failure  2011;13(8):852-859.
Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a major contributor to the excess mortality of patients on maintenance dialysis. Homoarginine deficiency may lead to decreased nitric oxide availability and endothelial dysfunction. Based on this rationale we assessed whether homoarginine deficiency is a risk factor for SCD in dialysis patients.
Methods and results
This study examined the association of homoarginine with cardiovascular outcomes in 1255 diabetic haemodialysis patients from the German diabetes and dialysis study. During a median of 4 years of follow-up, hazard ratios (HR) (95% CI) for reaching the following pre-specified, adjudicated endpoints were determined: SCD, myocardial infarction, stroke, death due to heart failure, and combined cardiovascular events. There was a strong association of low homoarginine concentrations with the presence of congestive heart failure and left ventricular hypertrophy as well as increased levels of brain natriuretic peptide. Per unit decrease in homoarginine, the risk of SCD increased three-fold (HR 3.1, 95% CI 2.0–4.9), attenuating slightly in multivariate models (HR 2.4; 95% CI 1.5–3.9). Patients in the lowest homoarginine quintile experienced a more than two-fold increased risk of SCD, and more than three-fold increased risk of heart failure death than patients in the highest quintile, which accounted for the high incidence of combined cardiovascular events. Low homoarginine showed a trend towards increased risk of stroke, however, myocardial infarction was not meaningfully affected.
Low homoarginine is a strong risk factor for SCD and death due to heart failure in haemodialysis patients. Further studies are needed to elucidate the underlying mechanisms, offering the potential to develop new interventional strategies.
PMCID: PMC3143829  PMID: 21791541
Homoarginine; Sudden cardiac death; Heart failure; Amino acids; Haemodialysis
18.  Graz Endocrine Causes of Hypertension (GECOH) study: a diagnostic accuracy study of aldosterone to active renin ratio in screening for primary aldosteronism 
Primary aldosteronism (PA) affects approximately 5 to 10% of all patients with arterial hypertension and is associated with an excess rate of cardiovascular complications that can be significantly reduced by a targeted treatment. There exists a general consensus that the aldosterone to renin ratio should be used as a screening tool but valid data about the accuracy of the aldosterone to renin ratio in screening for PA are sparse. In the Graz endocrine causes of hypertension (GECOH) study we aim to prospectively evaluate diagnostic procedures for PA.
Methods and design
In this single center, diagnostic accuracy study we will enrol 400 patients that are routinely referred to our tertiary care center for screening for endocrine hypertension. We will determine the aldosterone to active renin ratio (AARR) as a screening test. In addition, all study participants will have a second determination of the AARR and will undergo a saline infusion test (SIT) as a confirmatory test. PA will be diagnosed in patients with at least one AARR of ≥ 5.7 ng/dL/ng/L (including an aldosterone concentration of ≥ 9 ng/dL) who have an aldosterone level of ≥ 10 ng/dL after the saline infusion test. As a primary outcome we will calculate the receiver operating characteristic curve of the AARR in diagnosing PA. Secondary outcomes include the test characteristics of the saline infusion test involving a comparison with 24 hours urine aldosterone levels and the accuracy of the aldosterone to renin activity ratio in diagnosing PA. In addition we will evaluate whether the use of beta-blockers significantly alters the accuracy of the AARR and we will validate our laboratory methods for aldosterone and renin.
Screening for PA with subsequent targeted treatment is of great potential benefit for hypertensive patients. In the GECOH study we will evaluate a standardised procedure for screening and diagnosing of this disease.
PMCID: PMC2671510  PMID: 19351411

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