Association of Monocyte Count and Monocyte/Lymphocyte Ratio with the Risk of Cardiovascular Outcomes in Patients with CKD : Kidney360

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Original Investigation: Chronic Kidney Disease

Association of Monocyte Count and Monocyte/Lymphocyte Ratio with the Risk of Cardiovascular Outcomes in Patients with CKD

Oh, Ester S.1; You, Zhiying1; Nowak, Kristen L.1; Jovanovich, Anna J.1,2

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Kidney360 3(4):p 657-665, April 28, 2022. | DOI: 10.34067/KID.0007922021
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Introduction

Monocytes are key innate immune cells involved in the pathophysiology of cardiovascular disease (CVD), including atherosclerotic CVD (1) and heart failure (2). As one of the first responders of the innate immune system, monocytes are recruited to the site of vascular injury and trigger cytokine secretion from the vascular endothelium (2,3). Cytokines secreted from both monocytes and vascular endothelium attract additional monocytes to the injured vasculature, resulting in a vicious cycle of monocyte recruitment and subsequent vascular inflammation, thus contributing to the development of CVD (2,3).

Monocyte count is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular events and mortality in individuals without CKD (4,5). In addition, monocyte/lymphocyte ratio (MLR; the absolute monocyte count divided by the absolute lymphocyte count) has been demonstrated to be a novel inflammatory parameter that is associated with cardiovascular risk in non-CKD populations (6–8). A uremic environment induces a proinflammatory monocyte phenotype, contributing to vascular inflammation and an increased CVD risk in the CKD population (9,10). Although it is well documented that both monocyte count and MLR are associated with an elevated risk of CVD in individuals without CKD, limited studies with small samples sizes have examined whether this association translates to the CKD population (11–14).

Accordingly, the current study aimed to examine if monocyte count or MLR at baseline can be used as a cost-effective, clinically available indicator of cardiovascular risk in the CKD population by evaluating the association of monocyte count and MLR with the risk of a composite of CVD events, CVD death, and all-cause death in patients with nondialysis dependent stages 2–4 CKD who participated in the Chronic Renal Insufficiency Cohort (CRIC) observational study.

Materials and Methods

Study Design

The CRIC study is a multicenter, prospective, observational study of risk factors for the progression of CKD and its complications. A total of 3939 participants with mild to moderate CKD were recruited from 13 clinical sites in the United States between May 2003 through March 2008. Data (including follow-up data through 2018) for the analysis were obtained through the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) repository on June 25, 2021. The major inclusion criteria were participants with CKD aged 21–74 years old with an eGFR of 20–70 ml/min per 1.73 m2 at enrollment. Other detailed eligibility criteria, study design, methods, and baseline characteristics have been described previously (15–17). The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of all participating centers, and all participants provided written informed consent.

In this study, 548 participants were excluded from the analysis due to missing data for the predictor variables (monocyte count, n=55; lymphocyte count, n=56) and/or covariates (body mass index, n=10; smoking status, n=327; number of antihypertensives, n=28; statin use, n=28; systolic blood pressure, n=1; total cholesterol, n=12; HDL cholesterol, n=12; and urinary albumin, n=180), resulting in a final analytic sample of 3391 participants (Supplemental Figure 1).

Study Variables

The primary predictor was monocyte count at baseline. The secondary predictor was MLR at baseline. The primary outcome was time to a composite of CVD events (heart failure, myocardial infarction, ischemic stroke, and peripheral artery disease, as originally defined by adjudication in CRIC). CVD events were confirmed every 6 months by phone or in person during follow-up visits and adjudicated by medical record review as possible, probable, or definite events. Adjudicated heart failure events were defined as hospital admission for signs and symptoms of poor cardiac output, and our analysis included probable and definite adjudicated heart failure events. Adjudicated atherosclerotic events were defined as possible, probable, or definite myocardial infarction; probable or definite stroke; and probable or definite peripheral artery disease. Secondary outcomes were time to CVD death and all-cause death. Deaths were confirmed by death certificate (18).

Confounders potentially related to CVD and CKD, all measured at baseline, were selected a priori as covariates for the analysis. Demographic characteristics (age, sex, race, and smoking status) and medical conditions (prevalent diabetes and CVD) were self-reported (17). Current medications (antihypertensives and statin use) were reviewed and documented (17). Anthropometric measures (height, weight, and body mass index) were measured by trained study personnel (15–17). Blood pressure was measured using a standard and validated protocol (15–17). A complete blood count was performed in the CRIC Central Laboratory (19), and plasma and urine samples were collected for initial study measures (15). Concentrations of total and HDL cholesterol were determined in the plasma. Urinary albumin excretion was determined from a 24-hour urine collection (17). eGFR was evaluated in the CRIC Central Laboratory calculated using the CKD Epidemiology Collaboration (CKD-EPI) estimating equation (17,19).

Statistical Analyses

Covariates were summarized by mean±SD or median (interquartile range [IQR]) for continuous variables, and number (n) and proportion (%) for categorical variables. Number of events and event rates per 100 person-years were calculated by tertile for CVD events, CVD death, and all-cause death. Event-free survival was examined by survival analysis, including Kaplan–Meier and statistical comparison by the log rank test. Cox proportional hazard regression models were used to evaluate the longitudinal association of monocyte count and MLR with time to first CVD event, CVD death, and all-cause death. Participants were censored at death or loss for follow-up. All analyses evaluated monocyte count or MLR using log base 2-transformed continuous variable and tertile, with the lowest tertile serving as the reference category. Hazard ratios (HR) of the continuous predictor variables were interpreted as HR per doubling of monocyte count or MLR. Model 1 was adjusted for demographics, including age, race, and clinic site. Model 2 was additionally adjusted for traditional CVD risk factors, including systolic blood pressure, number of antihypertensives, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, statin use, smoking status, prevalent CVD, and prevalent diabetes. Model 3 was further adjusted for markers of kidney disease, including eGFR and urinary albumin (log-transformed). Model 4 was further adjusted for high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP; log-transformed). In addition, using the Fine and Gray method, a sensitivity analysis was conducted where all-cause death was evaluated as a competing risk for the CVD composite end point. A two-tailed P value of ≤0.05 was considered statistically significant for all analyses. All statistical analyses were performed using SAS v9.4 (SAS Institute, Cary, NC).

Results

Baseline Characteristics

Among the 3939 CRIC participants, 3391 participants were included in the final analytic cohort. The mean eGFR was 45 ml/min per 1.73 m2 (SD=15 ml/min per 1.73 m2), the mean age was 58 years (SD=11 years), 46% (n=1553) were women, and 45% (n=1530) were Black (Table 1). Participants in the highest tertile of monocyte count and MLR were more likely to be men and have prevalent CVD compared with the lowest tertile.

Table 1. - Demographic characteristics and laboratory measurements by tertile of monocyte count and monocyte/lymphocyte ratio
Characteristics Overall cohort (N=3391) Monocyte Count Monocyte/Lymphocyte Ratio
Tertile 1, <400/mm3 (N=1003) Tertile 2, ≥400 and <523/mm3 (N=1225) Tertile 3, ≥523/mm3 (N=1133) Tertile 1, <0.23 (N=1107) Tertile 2, ≥0.23 and <0.33 (N=1068) Tertile 3, ≥0.33 (N=1216)
Monocyte count, mm3, median (IQR) 470 (365–600) 300 (260–346) 455 (400–500) 640 (600–750)
MLR, median (IQR) 0.28 (0.21–0.38) 0.18 (0.15–0.2) 0.27 (0.25–0.3) 0.42 (0.36–0.5)
Age, yr, mean±SD 58±11 58±11 58±11 59±11 57±11 58±11 60±11
Women, n (%) 1553 (46) 589 (59) 554 (44) 410 (36) 704 (64) 473 (44) 376 (31)
Race, n (%)
 White 1686 (50) 447 (45) 642 (51) 597 (53) 413 (37) 528 (49) 745 (61)
 Black 1530 (45) 493 (49) 551 (44) 486 (43) 673 (58) 471 (44) 422 (35)
 Other 175 (5) 63 (6) 62 (5) 50 (4) 57 (5) 69 (7) 49 (4)
BMI, kg/m2, mean±SD 32.1±8 31.2±7.9 32.1±7.7 33±8.2 32.4±8.3 32.1±7.8 31.9±7.7
Current smoking, n (%) 456 (13) 118 (12) 163 (13) 175 (15) 195 (18) 127 (12) 134 (11)
CVD, n (%) 1152 (34) 278 (28) 414 (33) 460 (41) 317 (29) 364 (34) 471 (39)
Diabetes, n (%) 1573 (46) 410 (41) 592 (47) 571 (50) 485 (44) 491 (46) 597 (49)
# Antihypertensives, mean±SD 2.6±1.5 2.4±1.6 2.6±1.5 2.9±1.5 2.4±1.5 2.6±1.5 2.8±1.5
Statin use, n (%) 1870 (55) 495 (49) 713 (57) 662 (58) 576 (52) 588 (55) 706 (58)
SBP, mm Hg, mean±SD 127±22 126±22 128±21 128±22 126±21 128±22 129±22
Cholesterol, mg/dl, mean±SD 183±44 188±45 183±46 178±41 190±47 182±43 176±41
HDL cholesterol, mean±SD 48±16 52±17 47±14 46±14 50±16 48±15 47±15
eGFR, ml/min per 1.73 m2, mean±SD 45±15 46±16 45±15 43±14 47±16 45±15 43±14
Urinary albumin, g/24 h, median (IQR) 0.06 (0.01–0.49) 0.03 (0.01–0.37) 0.06 (0.01–0.51) 0.08 (0.01–0.55) 0.04 (0.01–0.41) 0.06 (0.01–0.49) 0.08 (0.01–0.54)
hs-CRP, mg/L, median (IQR) 2.57 (1.05–6.52) 1.87 (0.82–4.87) 2.42 (1.07–5.81) 3.58 (1.35–8.5) 2.5 (0.96–6.61) 2.22 (0.96–5.71) 3.01 (1.22–7.27)
BMI, body mass index; CVD, cardiovascular disease; hs-CRP, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein; IQR, interquartile range; MLR, monocyte/lymphocyte ratio; SBP, systolic blood pressure.

Risk of CVD, CVD Death, and All-Cause Death

There were 1088 first composite CVD events over a median follow-up of 9 years (IQR 3.6–12.5 years). During the median follow-up of 11.7 years (IQR 7.4–13.1 years), there were 1220 all-cause deaths, including 411 CVD deaths. The rates of first CVD composite events, CVD death, and all-cause death per 100 person-years were greater in the highest tertile of monocyte count and MLR compared with the lowest tertile (Figure 1). During the period of observation, participants with a higher monocyte count and MLR experienced lower CVD-, CVD death-, and all-cause death-free survival (log rank P<0.001; Figure 2).

F1
Figure 1.:
Unadjusted event rates of CVD, CVD death, and all-cause death per 100 person-years of follow-up in CRIC participants. Event rates of CVD (A), CVD death (B), and all-cause death (C) per 100 person-years of follow-up are presented in tertile of monocyte count and MLR. CRIC, Chronic Renal Insufficiency Cohort; CVD, cardiovascular disease; MLR, monocyte/lymphocyte ratio.
F2
Figure 2.:
CVD-, CVD death-, and all-cause death-free survivals (Kaplan–Meir curve) in CRIC participants. CVD-, CVD death-, and all-cause death-free survivals presented in tertile of monocyte count (A–C) and MLR (D–F).

Association of Monocyte Count and MLR with the Risk of CVD, CVD Death, and All-Cause Death

In unadjusted analyses, the highest tertile of monocyte count and MLR were associated with a higher risk of first CVD event compared with the lowest tertile (Tables 2 and 3). This association was attenuated but remained significant after further adjustment for demographics (model 1), traditional CVD risk factors (model 2), and markers of kidney disease (model 3). After additional adjustment for hs-CRP, the highest tertile of monocyte count and MLR (compared with the lowest tertile) were associated with a 31% (95% CI, 14% to 49%) and a 41% (95% CI, 23% to 61%) greater risk of CVD, respectively. Similar results were obtained when monocyte count and MLR were modeled continuously (HR per doubling of monocyte count=1.2 [95% CI, 1.1 to 1.31]; HR per doubling of MLR=1.26 [95% CI, 1.16 to 1.36], both model 4).

Table 2. - Associations of monocyte count with cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular disease death, and all-cause death
Tertile 1, <400/mm3 (N=1003) Tertile 2, ≥400 and <523/mm3 (N=1225) Tertile 3, ≥523/mm3 (N=1133) Per Doubling of Monocyte Count
CVD
 Unadjusted Ref. 1.25 (1.1 to 1.42) 1.77 (1.57 to 2.01) 1.52 (1.39 to 1.65)
 Model 1 Ref. 1.21 (1.06 to 1.38) 1.64 (1.44 to 1.86) 1.42 (1.3 to 1.54)
 Model 2 Ref. 1.15 (1.01 to 1.32) 1.43 (1.25 to 1.63) 1.28 (1.17 to 1.4)
 Model 3 Ref. 1.13 (0.99 to 1.29) 1.37 (1.2 to 1.56) 1.25 (1.14 to 1.36)
 Model 4 Ref. 1.11 (0.97 to 1.27) 1.31 (1.14 to 1.49) 1.2 (1.1 to 1.31)
CVD death
 Unadjusted Ref. 1.38 (1.06 to 1.79) 1.87 (1.45 to 2.41) 1.59 (1.34 to 1.89)
 Model 1 Ref. 1.23 (0.94 to 1.61) 1.61 (1.23 to 2.09) 1.45 (1.21 to 1.72)
 Model 2 Ref. 1.13 (0.87 to 1.48) 1.33 (1.02 to 1.73) 1.27 (1.07 to 1.51)
 Model 3 Ref. 1.13 (0.86 to 1.47) 1.26 (0.97 to 1.64) 1.22 (1.03 to 1.46)
 Model 4 Ref. 1.11 (0.85 to 1.45) 1.2 (0.92 to 1.58) 1.18 (0.99 to 1.41)
All-cause death
 Unadjusted Ref. 1.32 (1.13 to 1.53) 1.89 (1.63 to 2.19) 1.55 (1.41 to 1.71)
 Model 1 Ref. 1.2 (1.03 to 1.41) 1.68 (1.45 to 1.96) 1.43 (1.29 to 1.58)
 Model 2 Ref. 1.14 (0.98 to 1.33) 1.47 (1.26 to 1.71) 1.29 (1.16 to 1.42)
 Model 3 Ref. 1.12 (0.96 to 1.31) 1.38 (1.18 to 1.61) 1.23 (1.11 to 1.36)
 Model 4 Ref. 1.1 (0.94 to 1.29) 1.3 (1.11 to 1.52) 1.17 (1.06 to 1.3)
Data are shown as hazard ratios (95% CI). Model 1: Unadjusted+demographics (age, sex, race, and clinic site). Model 2: Model 1+traditional CVD risk factors (systolic blood pressure, number of antihypertensives, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, statin use, smoking status, prevalent CVD, and prevalent diabetes). Model 3: Model 2+markers of kidney disease (eGFR and urinary albumin). Model 4: Model 3+hs-CRP. CI, confidence interval; CVD, cardiovascular disease; Ref., reference; hs-CRP, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein.

Table 3. - Associations of monocyte/lymphocyte ratio with cardiovascular disease event, cardiovascular disease death, and all-cause death
Tertile 1, <0.23 (N=1107) Tertile 2, ≥0.23 and <0.33 (N=1068) Tertile 3, ≥0.33 (N=1216) Per Doubling of MLR
CVD
 Unadjusted Ref. 1.18 (1.03 to 1.34) 1.66 (1.48 to 1.87) 1.39 (1.29 to 1.48)
 Model 1 Ref. 1.14 (1 to 1.31) 1.6 (1.41 to 1.82) 1.34 (1.25 to 1.44)
 Model 2 Ref. 1.11 (0.97 to 1.27) 1.54 (1.35 to 1.75) 1.32 (1.23 to 1.43)
 Model 3 Ref. 1.1 (0.96 to 1.25) 1.46 (1.28 to 1.67) 1.29 (1.19 to 1.39)
 Model 4 Ref. 1.09 (0.95 to 1.24) 1.41 (1.23 to 1.61) 1.26 (1.16 to 1.36)
CVD death
 Unadjusted Ref. 1.18 (0.9 to 1.54) 1.97 (1.55 to 2.5) 1.56 (1.37 to 1.78)
 Model 1 Ref. 1.04 (0.79 to 1.38) 1.67 (1.29 to 2.16) 1.42 (1.23 to 1.63)
 Model 2 Ref. 1.03 (0.78 to 1.37) 1.55 (1.19 to 2.02) 1.36 (1.18 to 1.58)
 Model 3 Ref. 1.01 (0.76 to 1.33) 1.43 (1.09 to 1.86) 1.3 (1.12 to 1.51)
 Model 4 Ref. 1 (0.76 to 1.32) 1.38 (1.06 to 1.81) 1.27 (1.1 to 1.48)
All-cause death
 Unadjusted Ref. 1.23 (1.06 to 1.43) 1.77 (1.54 to 2.03) 1.43 (1.32 to 1.54)
 Model 1 Ref. 1.14 (0.98 to 1.33) 1.58 (1.36 to 1.84) 1.33 (1.22 to 1.45)
 Model 2 Ref. 1.14 (0.97 to 1.33) 1.52 (1.3 to 1.77) 1.3 (1.19 to 1.41)
 Model 3 Ref. 1.1 (0.94 to 1.28) 1.38 (1.18 to 1.61) 1.23 (1.13 to 1.34)
 Model 4 Ref. 1.08 (0.93 to 1.27) 1.31 (1.12 to 1.53) 1.18 (1.09 to 1.29)
Data are shown as hazard ratios (95% CI). Model 1: Unadjusted+demographics (age, sex, race, and clinic site). Model 2: Model 1+traditional CVD risk factors (systolic blood pressure, number of antihypertensives, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, statin use, smoking status, prevalent CVD, and prevalent diabetes). Model 3: Model 2+markers of kidney disease (eGFR and urinary albumin). Model 4: Model 3+hs-CRP. CVD, cardiovascular disease; Ref., reference; MLR, monocyte/lymphocyte ratio.

In sensitivity analyses evaluating all-cause mortality as a competing risk factor for CVD, the HRs were similar to those obtained from Cox proportional hazard models. Although monocyte count was not associated with CVD risk after adjustment for markers of kidney disease (model 3) and CRP (model 4), MLR remained associated with a higher CVD risk in unadjusted analysis and all adjusted analyses (models 1–4; Supplemental Tables 1 and 2).

In unadjusted analysis and analyses adjusted for demographics (model 1) and traditional CVD risk factors (model 2), the highest tertile of monocyte count and MLR were significantly associated with a higher risk of CVD death compared with the lowest tertile (Tables 2 and 3). After further adjustment for markers of kidney disease (model 3) and hs-CRP (model 4), this association was no longer statistically significant for monocyte count. However, the highest tertile of MLR (compared with the lowest tertile) was associated with a 38% (95% CI, 6% to 81%) greater risk of CVD death in the fully adjusted model (model 4). When monocyte count and MLR were modeled continuously, monocyte count was not associated with the risk of CVD death (model 4), but MLR remained associated with a greater risk of CVD death (HR per doubling of MLR=1.27 [95% CI, 1.1 to 1.48], model 4).

Finally, in unadjusted analysis and analyses adjusted for demographics (model 1), traditional CVD risk factors (model 2), and markers of kidney disease (model 3), the highest tertile of monocyte count and MLR were associated with a higher risk of all-cause death compared with the lowest tertile (Tables 2 and 3). In the fully adjusted model (model 4), this association was attenuated but remained statistically significant. Compared with the lowest tertile, the highest tertile of monocyte count and MLR were associated with a 30% (95% CI, 11% to 52%) and a 31% (95% CI, 12% to 53%) higher risk of all-cause death, respectively. Similarly, in the continuous model, monocyte count and MLR were associated with a higher risk of all-cause death (HR per doubling monocyte count=1.17 [95% CI, 1.06 to 1.3]; HR per doubling MLR=1.18 [95% CI, 1.09 to 1.29], both model 4).

Discussion

We demonstrated a graded association of monocyte count with a higher risk of CVD, CVD death, and all-cause death in patients with nondialysis-dependent CKD, during a median follow-up of 9 years for CVD and 11.7 years for death. MLR also was associated with a higher risk of CVD, CVD death, and all-cause death. These findings suggest that a higher monocyte count at baseline may be associated with the risk of CVD, CVD death, and all-cause death in patients with nondialysis-dependent CKD.

Chronic low-grade inflammation, characterized by elevated circulating concentrations of proinflammatory mediators, has been identified as a key mechanism partially mediating vascular dysfunction and elevated risk of CVD in the general population and in patients with CKD (20). Given that monocyte count is associated with circulating levels of proinflammatory mediators (21), monocyte count may serve as a surrogate marker of inflammation that is involved with the increased risk of CVD. Additionally, MLR has attracted attention for its application to predict the risk of CVD (6–8). Whereas monocytes are involved in the inflammatory reaction process, lymphocytes, which consist of T cells, B cells, and natural killer cells, represent the regulatory pathway of the immune system; thus, an elevated MLR may indicate an increased inflammatory reaction and impaired immune response (22).

In clinical practice, complete blood count is easily and inexpensively measured and often performed as part of a routine checkup, in contrast to other circulating inflammatory markers (e.g., ILs and TNF-α). Previous studies demonstrated monocyte/HDL ratio as a potential prognostic cardiovascular marker in the non-CKD population (23); however, sensitivity and specificity of CVD diagnosis are similar between MLR and monocyte/HDL ratio (24). Thus, we hypothesized that monocyte count and MLR could serve as simple, cost-effective, clinically available surrogate markers of inflammation associated with CVD risk in the CKD population.

Monocytes play a key role in vascular inflammation and further contribute to CVD development (2,3). In individuals without CKD, numerous studies demonstrated a strong association between monocyte count and cardiovascular events and/or mortality. In adults without a history of CVD, monocyte count is associated with a higher risk of incident CVD (5). Monocyte count is also associated with a higher risk of CVD mortality in older adults (25). Furthermore, previous studies report an association of monocyte count and MLR with a higher CVD mortality in patients with prevalent CVD, including myocardial infarction (8) and heart failure (26). In the current study, monocyte count and MLR were independently associated with the risk of CVD and CVD death in patients with nondialysis-dependent CKD, suggesting this previously observed association in a population without CKD may translate to the CKD population.

In the current study, the association between monocyte count and MLR and the risk of CVD and CVD death remained significant, even after adjustment for traditional CVD risk factors and markers of kidney disease. We also demonstrated that monocyte count and MLR were associated with a higher risk of CVD, even after further adjustment for hs-CRP, a well-known marker of systemic inflammation (27). Thus, our findings suggest that monocytes may be at least in part associated with the development of CVD in patients with CKD, at least in part independent from inflammation reflected by hs-CRP. Indeed, a growing body of literature suggests that the uremic environment in CKD predisposes to vascular inflammation via inducing a proinflammatory phenotype of the monocytes (9,10). Monocytes derived from the patients with CKD are more likely to react to inflammatory cytokines (i.e., increased expression of TNF receptor), to adhere and potentially transmigrate to vascular endothelium (i.e., elevated expression of CD11b), and to secrete proinflammatory cytokines, including TNF-α, IL-1β, and IL-6 (10).

Human monocytes are a heterogeneous cell population in the circulation and are classified as classical (CD14++CD16), intermediate (CD14++CD16+), and nonclassical (CD14+CD16++) monocytes (28), which contribute differently to inflammatory responses and CVD development (29). Notably, a systematic review and meta-analysis reported there may be a shift in the distribution of monocyte subsets from classical toward intermediate and/or nonclassical monocytes in individuals at cardiovascular risk compared with healthy controls (30). In individuals with CKD, the proportion of the intermediate monocytes, known to be highly proinflammatory (31), are expanded compared with those without CKD (32,33). Notably, Rogacev et al. demonstrated intermediate monocyte count was independently associated with incident CVD events (HR=1.26 [95% CI, 1.04 to 1.52]) in patients with nondialysis-dependent CKD (n=119) (34). This suggests that not only increased monocyte count but also an expansion in the circulating intermediate monocytes in patients with CKD may contribute to vascular inflammation and further development of CVD. Monocyte subsets were not available in this study, but it is biologically plausible that patients with a higher monocyte count may have an increased proportion of the intermediate monocyte population.

Four other prospective analyses in small cohorts investigated the association between monocytes and the risk of CVD in CKD populations (three studies in CKD cohorts undergoing dialysis and one study in a nondialysis-dependent CKD cohort). Xiang et al. demonstrated a higher risk of cardiovascular mortality (HR=6.99; 95% CI, 1.94 to 25.12]) with a higher MLR in patients who had been undergoing hemodialysis for at least 6 months (n=355; 62% men) during a median follow-up of 51 months (14). Kato et al. demonstrated that the highest tertile of monocyte count (compared with the lowest tertile) was associated with a higher risk of CVD death (HR for CVD death=1.98 [95% CI, 1.1 to 3.57]) in patients undergoing chronic hemodialysis (n=333; 65% men) during a follow-up of 40 months (12). Wen et al. reported that the highest tertile of MLR (compared with the lowest tertile) was associated with a high risk of CVD death (HR for CVD death=1.45; 95% CI, 1.13 to 2.51]) in patients undergoing peritoneal dialysis (n=1753; 57% men) during a median follow-up of 31 months (13). Kanbay et al. reported that monocyte/HDL ratio was associated with a higher risk of CVD (HR for fatal CVD event=1.59 [95% CI, 1.44 to 1.75]) in patients with stages 1–5 CKD (n=340; 51% men) during a mean follow-up of 33 months (11). Our results strongly support the previous findings, with a larger sample size and a longer follow-up duration.

We also demonstrated an association between monocyte count and MLR and all-cause mortality in patients with CKD. Numerous prospective analyses highlight the association between monocytes and the risk of all-cause mortality in diverse populations, including the general population (35), individuals with prevalent CVD (myocardial infarction and heart failure) (8,26), and patients with CKD (11,36). We hypothesize that a high monocyte count and MLR may be implicated in or even promote impaired immune function, increased inflammation, and/or poor overall health, which partially mediate the risk of all-cause mortality.

There are several limitations to our study. The results are observational rather than causational due to the nature of the analysis. We adjusted for numerous important covariates, but the results may be subject to residual confounding factors, either unmeasured or unknown, which may explain the higher CVD risk in those with higher monocyte count and MLR. Adjusted models for CVD death may be overfitted; thus, results need to be interpreted with caution. Moreover, the associations of monocyte count and MLR with the primary and secondary end points (CVD events, CVD death, and all-cause death) were relatively small on the basis of doubling of continuous predictors. However, monocyte count and MLR as categorical predictors were also significantly associated with the end points, which supports our overall conclusion. Monocytes are a heterogenous cell population, and intermediate monocytes, in particular, play an important role in the development of CVD. However, our data lack information on the proportion of the monocyte subsets. An important strength of this study is the large sample size with similar proportions of men and women and racial diversity; thus, results may be generalizable in the CKD population.

In summary, we demonstrated higher monocyte count and MLR were significantly associated with increased risk of CVD, CVD death, and all-cause death, suggesting that monocyte count and MLR may have the potential to be simple, cost-effective, clinically available indicators of cardiovascular risk in patients with nondialysis-dependent CKD.

Disclosures

All authors have nothing to disclose.

Funding

This study was supported by NIH, NIDDK (5T32DK007135-46) to E.S. Oh, Veterans Affairs Merit Award (I01CX001985) to A.J. Jovanovich, and NIH, NIDDK (R01 DK130255) to K.L. Nowak.

Acknowledgments

Data for the analysis were obtained through the NIDDK repository.

Author Contributions

E.S. Oh, A.J. Jovanovich, and K.L. Nowak conceptualized the study; A.J. Jovanovich and K.L. Nowak supervised the study; A.J. Jovanovich, K.L. Nowak, and E.S. Oh were responsible for validation; E.S. Oh and Z. You was responsible for the methodology; E.S. Oh wrote the original draft of the manuscript; Z. You was responsible for the investigation; and all authors reviewed and edited the manuscript and approved the final version of the submitted manuscript.

Data Sharing Statement

Original data analyzed in this study are available in a persistent repository upon request: Observational Data, CRIC, https://repository.niddk.nih.gov/studies/cric/.

Supplemental Material

This article contains the following supplemental material online at http://kidney360.asnjournals.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.34067/KID.0007922021/-/DCSupplemental.

Supplemental Figure 1. Study flow chart.

Supplemental Table 1. Sensitivity analysis of the association (hazard ratios; 95%CI) between monocyte count and cardiovascular disease (CVD) event evaluating all-cause death as a competing risk.

Supplemental Table 2. Sensitivity analysis of the association (hazard ratios; 95% CI) between monocyte/lymphocyte ratio and CVD event evaluating all-cause death as a competing risk.

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Keywords:

chronic kidney disease; cardiovascular disease; inflammation; lymphocytes; monocyte; mortality

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