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J Leukoc Biol. 1998 Jul;64(1):14-8.

The bactericidal/permeability-increasing protein (BPI) in antibacterial host defense.

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Department of Medicine/Microbiology, New York University School of Medicine, New York 10016, USA.


The bactericidal/permeability-increasing protein (BPI) is a 456-residue cationic protein produced only by precursors of polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN) and is stored in the primary granules of these cells. The potent (nM) cytotoxicity of BPI is limited to gram-negative bacteria (GNB), reflecting the high affinity (<10 nM) of BPI for bacterial lipopolysaccharides (LPS). The biological effects of isolated BPI are linked to complex formation with LPS. Binding of BPI to live bacteria via LPS causes immediate growth arrest. Actual killing coincides with later damage to the inner membrane. Complex formation of BPI with cell-associated or cell-free LPS inhibits all LPS-induced host cell responses. BPI-blocking antibodies abolish the potent activity of whole PMN lysates and inflammatory fluids against BPI-sensitive GNB. The antibacterial and the anti-endotoxin activities of BPI are fully expressed by the amino terminal half of the molecule. These properties of BPI have prompted preclinical and subsequent clinical testing of recombinant amino-terminal fragments of BPI. In animals, human BPI protein products protect against lethal injections of isolated LPS and inocula of GNB. Phase I trials in healthy human volunteers and multiple Phase I/II clinical trials have been completed or are in progress (severe pediatric meningococcemia, hemorrhagic trauma, partial hepatectomy, severe peritoneal infections, and cystic fibrosis) and two phase III trials (meningococcemia and hemorrhagic trauma) have been initiated. In none of >900 normal and severely ill individuals have issues of safety or immunogenicity been encountered. Preliminary evidence points to overall benefit in BPI-treated patients. These results suggest that BPI may have a place in the treatment of life-threatening infections and conditions associated with bacteremia and endotoxemia.

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