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J Surg Res. 1998 Dec;80(2):243-51.

The effector component of the cytotoxic T-lymphocyte response has a biphasic pattern after burn injury.

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Department of Surgery, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.



Burn injury delays allograft rejection and impairs the host defense against infection. These functions are mediated via the cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) response. The CTL response is divided into antigen recognition/processing and effector phases. Presensitization allows selective analysis of changes, induced by burn injury, in the effector limb of the CTL response in relation to time and burn size.


Anesthetized CBA mice were primed with either a flank allograft from C57BL/6 (B6) mice or an autograft (negative control). Five weeks after grafting, animals were anesthetized and received either a 0, 20, or 40% burn. Spleens were harvested 3, 7, 10, and 14 days after burn injury (n = 96), cocultured with B6 stimulator splenocytes, and assessed for CTL response to radiolabeled allogeneic targets in a 51Cr release assay. In experiment 2, spleens were harvested from unburned and 40% burned animals on Postburn Days 3 and 14. After triple staining, cells were analyzed by flow cytometry for CD4, CD8, and CD25 antigens. In experiment 3, splenocytes from 0 and 40% burned animals on Postburn Days 3 and 14, were cocultured with B6 stimulators for 5 days. Supernatants were evaluated for interleukin (IL)-2, IL-5, and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) using ELISA:


The CTL response for 20 and 40% burned animals decreased 3 days postburn (-11.9 and -30.1%, P < 0.05), returned to baseline in 7-10 days, and was increased by 14 days postburn (15.8 and 22.6%, P < 0.05). The T-helper lymphocyte population (CD4) from 40% burn animals was significantly decreased on Postburn Days 3 and 14 (10.12 +/- 0.45% vs 11.78 +/- 0.29% and 10.19 +/- 0.24% vs 14.21 +/- 0.97%, respectively, P < 0.05). The CTL effector (CD8) splenocyte population was significantly higher in the burned animals on Postburn Day 14 (4.55% vs 3.71%, P < 0.05). On Postburn Day 3, average IL-5 production was higher in the burned animals (1.80 pg/ml vs 0.59 pg/ml, respectively, P < 0.05). The burn group, on Postburn Days 3 and 14, showed a decrease in mean IL-2 production (212.81 pg/ml vs 263.6 pg/ml and 342.7 pg/ml vs 421.4 pg/ml, respectively, P < 0.05). Mean IFN-gamma production on Postburn Days 3 and 14 was decreased in burned mice (263.75 pg/ml vs 285.57 pg/ml and 218.16 pg/ml vs 263.42 pg/ml, P < 0.05).


Burn injury impairs the effector limb of the CTL response as a function of burn size in the immediate postburn period. CTL activity returns to baseline within 7-10 days postburn and has a rebound increase by Day 14. Early CTL suppression, after burn injury, may be due to a decrease in the T-helper subpopulation. The late increase in cytotoxicity may be secondary to an increase in the effector CTL population in the late postburn period. Burn injury causes a T-helper-2 phenotype as demonstrated by depressed IL-2 and IFN-gamma production and increased IL-5 production.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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