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Crit Care. 2013 Sep 10;17(5):R195. doi: 10.1186/cc12889.

Early propranolol treatment induces lung heme-oxygenase-1, attenuates metabolic dysfunction, and improves survival following experimental sepsis.



Pharmacological agents that block beta-adrenergic receptors have been associated with improved outcome in burn injury. It has been hypothesized that injuries leading to a hypermetabolic state, such as septic shock, may also benefit from beta-blockade; however, outcome data in experimental models have been contradictory. Thus, we investigated the effect of beta-blockade with propranolol on survival, hemodynamics, lung heat shock protein (HSP) expression, metabolism and inflammatory markers in a rat cecal ligation and puncture (CLP) model of sepsis.


Sprague-Dawley rats receiving either repeated doses (30 minutes pre-CLP and every 8 hours for 24 hours postoperatively) of propranolol or control (normal saline), underwent CLP and were monitored for survival. Additionally, lung and blood samples were collected at 6 and 24 hours for analysis. Animals also underwent monitoring to evaluate global hemodynamics.


Seven days following CLP, propranolol improved survival versus control (P < 0.01). Heart rates in the propranolol-treated rats were approximately 23% lower than control rats (P < 0.05) over the first 24 hours, but the mean arterial blood pressure was not different between groups. Metabolic analysis of lung tissue demonstrated an increase in lung ATP/ADP ratio and NAD+ content and a decreased ratio of polyunsaturated fatty acids to monounsaturated fatty acids (PUFA/MUFA). Cytokine analysis of the inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) demonstrated decreased expression of TNF-alpha in both lung and plasma at 24 hours post CLP induced sepsis. Finally, propranolol led to a significant increase in lung hemeoxygenase-1 expression, a key cellular protective heat shock protein (HSP) in the lung. Other lung HSP expression was unchanged.


These results suggest that propranolol treatment may decrease mortality during sepsis potentially via a combination of improving metabolism, suppressing aspects of the inflammatory response and enhancing tissue protection.

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