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New Horiz. 1996 Feb;4(1):72-86.

Alterations in calcium signaling and cellular responses in septic injury.

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Department of Physiology, Loyola University Chicago, Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, IL, USA.


The immune and endocrine mediators that are released during sepsis (e.g., tumor necrosis factor [TNF] alpha, interleukin [IL]-1, IL-6, transforming growth factor [TGF] beta, prostaglandin [PG] E2, catecholamines, vasopressin, glucagon, insulin, and glucocorticoids) can produce inappropriate detrimental cellular responses contributing to exacerbation of septic injury. Examples of such sepsis-related inappropriate responses are: exaggerated hepatic acute-phase protein (APP) expression and release skeletal muscle insulin resistance, and suppressed T-lymphocyte proliferation. The studies discussed in this article present evidence that the generation of the sepsis-related hepatic, skeletal muscle, and T-lymphocyte responses emanate from alterations in intracellular Ca2+ (Ca2+i) homeostasis. In hepatocytes, there is indication of a sepsis-mediated increase in Ca2+ influx from the extracellular milieu leading to a sustained increase in the apparent resting cell Ca2+i concentration ([Ca2+]i) and its depressed elevation on stimulation with Ca2+-mobilizing hormones such as catecholamines and vasopressin. These Ca(2+)- related changes can affect not only the signaling pathways in which Ca2+i itself serves as a signaling component, but also the signaling systems turned on by other sepsis-induced agonists which may not be dependent on Ca2+ signaling. TGF-beta, IL-1, TNF alpha, and IL-6 activate a primarily protein kinase C (PKC)-dependent intracellular signal system for the elicitation of a normal hepatic APP response (APPR). The increased apparent basal [Ca2+]i in sepsis can hypersensitize PKC activation and thus lead to an exaggerated APPR. In the skeletal muscle, an evident increase in Ca2+ membrane flux during sepsis pointed to an increase in the basal [Ca2+]i resulting from a plausible cytokine-mediated overactivation of the voltage-sensitive Ca2+ channels. The increased basal [Ca2+]i can negatively modulate the insulin-mediated stimulation of GLUT4-dependent glucose transport despite the possibility that Ca2+i might not participate as a component in the insulin-receptor-regulated signaling pathway. Increased [Ca2+]i in skeletal myocytes can either directly promote the phosphorylation of GLUT4 or prevent its dephosphorylation, both of which effectively block insulin stimulation of glucose uptake, thereby contributing to insulin resistance. In T lymphocytes, septic injury appears to induce an attenuation in the mitogen and, thus, presumably a T-cell antigen receptor (TCR)-mediated elevation in [Ca2+]i without affecting the basal [Ca2+]i. This decrease in TCR-related Ca2+i mobilization evidently contributes to the suppression of T lymphocyte proliferation during sepsis, probably via an in vivo action of prostaglandin (PG) E2 on the T cells during sepsis. The blockade of PGE2 production after indomethacin administration to septic animals prevents alterations in both T-cell Ca2+i mobilization and proliferation. PGE2 probably acts through its second messenger, cyclic adenosine 3'5'-monophosphate, which can antagonize Ca2+i signaling in T cells.

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