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Crit Care Med. 2012 Aug;40(8):2390-9. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0b013e3182535aeb.

Toll-like receptor 3 plays a central role in cardiac dysfunction during polymicrobial sepsis.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Internal Medicine, James H. Quillen College of Medicine, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN, USA.



To determine the role of Toll-like receptor 3 in cardiac dysfunction during polymicrobial sepsis.


Controlled animal study.


University research laboratory.


Male C57BL/6, wild-type, Toll-like receptor 3-/-.


Myocardial dysfunction is a major consequence of septic shock and contributes to the high mortality of sepsis. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) play a critical role in the pathophysiology of sepsis/septic shock. TLR3 is located in intracellular endosomes, and recognizes double-stranded RNA. This study examined the role of TLR3 in cardiac dysfunction following cecal ligation and puncture (CLP)-induced sepsis. TLR3 knockout (TLR3-/-, n=12) and age-matched wild-type (n=12) mice were subjected to CLP. Cardiac function was measured by echocardiography before and 6 hrs after CLP.


CLP resulted in significant cardiac dysfunction as evidenced by decreased ejection fraction by 25.7% and fractional shortening by 29.8%, respectively. However, TLR3-/- mice showed a maintenance of cardiac function at pre-CLP levels. Wild-type mice showed 50% mortality at 58 hrs and 100% mortality at 154 hrs after CLP. In striking contrast, 70% of TLR3-/- mice survived indefinitely, that is, >200 hrs. TLR3 deficiency significantly decreased CLP-induced cardiac-myocyte apoptosis and attenuated CLP-induced Fas and Fas ligand expression in the myocardium. CLP-activation of TLR4-mediated nuclear factor-κB and Toll/IL-1 receptor-domain-containing adapter-inducing interferon-β-dependant interferon signaling pathways was prevented by TLR3 deficiency. In addition, CLP-increased vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 and intercellular adhesion molecule-1 expression, and neutrophil and macrophage sequestration in the myocardium were also attenuated in septic TLR3-/- mice. More significantly, adoptive transfer of wild-type bone-marrow stromal cells to TLR3-/- mice abolished the cardioprotective effect in sepsis.


These data indicate that TLR3 plays a deleterious role in mediating cardiac dysfunction in sepsis. Thus, modulation of the TLR3 activity may be useful in preventing cardiac dysfunction in sepsis.

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