August 20, 2020

Salt, immune cells and hypertension

Excess dietary salt activates immune cells to induce inflammation and hypertension, supporting current recommendations for low sodium consumption.

Excessive dietary salt is a major risk factor for hypertension and cardiovascular disease, but the mechanisms by which sodium elevates risk are not fully known. 

Recent studies have shown that sodium accumulates in tissues and can activate immune cells. 

Annet Kirabo, DVM, MSc, PhD, and colleagues exposed human monocytes collected from volunteers to high salt and demonstrated a coordinated cell response including formation of isolevuglandin (IsoLG)-protein adducts, expression of activation markers and increased production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Increases in IsoLG-adducts correlated with cardiovascular risk factors including body mass index, pulse pressure and total cholesterol. 

The researchers also discovered that monocytes collected from prehypertensive individuals with high skin sodium had increased IsoLG-adduct accumulation and expression of activation markers. 

The findingsreported in the journal Cardiovascular Research, support a role for monocytes in salt-induced cardiovascular risk in humans and suggest that scavenging IsoLGs or targeting monocytes may be therapeutically beneficial in salt-sensitive hypertension.

This research was supported by the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health (grants HL130497, HL121045, HL140016, HL129941).