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Infect Immun. 1996 Mar;64(3):769-74.

Lipopolysaccharide-induced lethality and cytokine production in aged mice.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Toho University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan.


This study was designed to define the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) sensitivity of aged mice in terms of lethality and cytokine production and to determine down-regulating responses of corticosterone and interleukin 10 (IL-10). The 50% lethal doses of LPS in young (6- to 7-week-old) and aged (98- to 102-week-old) mice were 601 and 93 microg per mouse (25.6 and 1.6 mg per kg of body weight), respectively. Aged mice were approximately 6.5-fold more sensitive to the lethal toxicity of LPS in micrograms per mouse (16-fold more sensitive in milligrams per kilogram) than young mice. Levels in sera of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) IL-1alpha, and IL-6 after intraperitoneal injection of 100 microg of LPS peaked at 1.5, 3, and 3 h, respectively, and declined thereafter in both groups of mice. However, the peak values of these cytokines were significantly higher in aged than in young mice (P < 0.05). Gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) was detectable at 3 h, and sustained high levels were still detected after 12 h in both age groups. Although there were no significant differences in levels of IFN-gamma in sera from both groups, aged mice showed higher IFN-gamma levels throughout the 3- to 12-h study period. Administration of increasing doses of LPS revealed that aged mice had a lower threshold to IL-1alpha production than young mice. In addition, aged mice were approximately 4-fold more sensitive to the lethal toxicity of exogenous TNF in units per mouse (10-fold more sensitive in units per kilogram) than young mice. With regard to down-regulating factors, corticosterone amounts were similar at basal levels and no differences in kinetics after the LPS challenge were observed, whereas IL-10 levels in sera were significantly higher in aged mice at 1.5 and 3 h than in young mice (P < 0.01). These results indicate that aged mice are more sensitive to the lethal toxicities of LPS and TNF than young mice. We conclude that a relatively activated, or primed, state for LPS-induced cytokine production, in spite of full down-regulating responses by corticosterone and IL- 10, may explain at least in part LPS sensitivity in aged mice.

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