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PLoS One. 2015 Jun 4;10(6):e0128870. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0128870. eCollection 2015.

Elevated sodium and dehydration stimulate inflammatory signaling in endothelial cells and promote atherosclerosis.

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National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, United States of America.


Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are a leading health problem worldwide. Epidemiologic studies link high salt intake and conditions predisposing to dehydration such as low water intake, diabetes and old age to increased risk of CVD. Previously, we demonstrated that elevation of extracellular sodium, which is a common consequence of these conditions, stimulates production by endothelial cells of clotting initiator, von Willebrand Factor, increases its level in blood and promotes thrombogenesis. In present study, by PCR array, using human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs), we analyzed the effect of high NaCl on 84 genes related to endothelial cell biology. The analysis showed that the affected genes regulate many aspects of endothelial cell biology including cell adhesion, proliferation, leukocyte and lymphocyte activation, coagulation, angiogenesis and inflammatory response. The genes whose expression increased the most were adhesion molecules VCAM1 and E-selectin and the chemoattractant MCP-1. These are key participants in the leukocyte adhesion and transmigration that play a major role in the inflammation and pathophysiology of CVD, including atherosclerosis. Indeed, high NaCl increased adhesion of mononuclear cells and their transmigration through HUVECs monolayers. In mice, mild water restriction that elevates serum sodium by 5 mmol/l, increased VCAM1, E-selectin and MCP-1 expression in mouse tissues, accelerated atherosclerotic plaque formation in aortic root and caused thickening or walls of coronary arteries. Multivariable linear regression analysis of clinical data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (n=12779) demonstrated that serum sodium is a significant predictor of 10 Years Risk of coronary heart disease. These findings indicate that elevation of extracellular sodium within the physiological range is accompanied by vascular changes that facilitate development of CVD. The findings bring attention to serum sodium as a risk factor for CVDs and give additional support to recommendations for dietary salt restriction and adequate water intake as preventives of CVD.

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