Induction of congestive heart failure by high-frequency pacing has been reported to increase plasma levels of immunoreactive kinins in dogs. In the present study, we evaluated plasma bradykinin levels in human heart failure. Utilizing a recently developed method, we specifically measured plasma levels of bradykinin-(1–9) nonapeptide in 21 patients with chronic congestive heart failure [New York Heart Association (NYHA) stages III and IV). At the same time, we measured plasma atrial natriuretic peptide levels and plasma renin activity, and, as a marker of inflammation, plasma levels of tumour necrosis factor. In addition, 18 healthy subjects matched for gender and age served as normal controls. Plasma bradykinin concentrations were not higher in patients with chronic congestive heart failure (median 2.1 fmol/ml) than in healthy subjects (2.6 fmol/ml). In contrast, plasma atrial natriuretic peptide levels were clearly higher (patients, 63 fmol/ml; controls, 24 fmol/ml; P < 0.0001), despite diuretic treatment and in the presence of high plasma renin activity (patients, 13.0 ng·h-1·ml-1; controls, 0.3 ng·h-1·ml-1; P < 0.0001). Tumour necrosis factor was elevated in heart failure patients in NYHA class IV only (27 pg/ml, compared with 21 pg/ml in controls; P = 0.013). Bradykinin, atrial natriuretic peptide and plasma renin activity levels were not correlated with the severity of the disease, as assessed by NYHA classification. These results indicate that a rather selective cytokine activation, without concomitant stimulation of the kallikrein–kinin system, occurs in human chronic congestive heart failure.

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