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J Trauma. 1999 Apr;46(4):590-6.

Early activation of pulmonary nuclear factor kappaB and nuclear factor interleukin-6 in polymicrobial sepsis.

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Department of Surgery, James H. Quillen College of Medicine, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City 37604-0575, USA.



Transcription factor activation may be a pivotal step in the pathophysiology of sepsis syndrome and adult respiratory distress syndrome. This study investigated the activation of lung nuclear factor kappaB (NFkappaB) and nuclear factor interleukin-6 (NF-IL6) and how they correlate to proinflammatory cytokine expression and mortality in a murine model of cecal ligation and puncture (CLP).


Polymicrobial sepsis was induced by CLP. Transcription factor activation was assessed at 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 24 hours after CLP by the electrophoretic mobility-shift assay. Lung cytokine mRNA levels were established by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction.


CLP induced pulmonary NFkappaB activation at 3, 4, and 8 hours (p < 0.05). Lung NFkappaB activation peaked at 3 hours (533% vs. no surgery, 2,900% vs. sham treatment) after CLP. Supershift analysis revealed a predominance of p50 subunits in the lung nuclear extracts of septic mice 3 hours after CLP, indicating the presence of p50 homodimer. In contrast, liver nuclear extracts from septic mice indicated the presence of both p65 and p50 subunits at 3 hours. Lung NF-IL6 activation (p < 0.05) was observed at 4 hours (649% vs. no surgery, 296% vs. sham treatment) and 6 hours after CLP. Lung tumor necrosis factor-alpha mRNA levels were increased (p < 0.05) at all time intervals after CLP. Lung IL-6 mRNA levels were increased at 3, 6, and 8 hours after CLP.


Early activation of lung NFkappaB and NF-IL6 and lung cytokine mRNA expression correlated with mortality in polymicrobial sepsis. Although IL-6 mRNA levels correlated with NFkappaB and NF-IL6 activation, tumor necrosis factor-alpha mRNA levels did not, in that they preceded transcription factor activation. These data suggest a potential role for NFkappaB and NF-IL6 activation in the initiation and propagation of acute lung injury.

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