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Am J Pathol. 1996 Oct;149(4):1381-93.

DNA fragmentation in mouse organs during endotoxic shock.

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  • 1Department of Biochemical Pharmacology, Faculty of Biology, University of Konstanz, Germany.


The systemic inflammatory response syndrome has still an unpredictable outcome, and patients often die of multiple organ failure despite circulatory stabilization therapy. The still incompletely understood pathophysiological mechanisms include organ damage due to direct toxic actions of cytokines elicited by overactivation of the host response. To study this process of organ failure in experimental septic shock, we injected mice with a lethal dose of endotoxin and examined apoptotic and necrotic tissue damage biochemically, histologically, and ultrastructurally. Endotoxin administration caused oligonucleosomal as well as random DNA fragmentation in liver, lung, kidney, and intestine. In the liver, DNA fragmentation was not restricted to hepatocytes but also occurred in nonparenchymal cells. The DNA fragmentation was mediated by tumor necrosis factor and attenuated by endogenous nitric oxide release. Unlike the situation in D-galactosamine-sensitized mice, in which injection or release of tumor necrosis factor causes massive hepatocyte apoptosis, liver failure due to high doses of endotoxin was characterized by single-cell necrosis, a low incidence of apoptosis, and simultaneous damage to nonparenchymal cells. We conclude that, even though endotoxin causes cytokine-mediated DNA fragmentation in several organs including the liver, hepatocyte apoptosis itself seems to be a minor phenomenon in high-dose endotoxic shock in mice.

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