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December 1997

Dysregulated Expression of Neutrophil Apoptosis in the Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, University of Toronto, and the Medical/Surgical Intensive Care Unit, the Toronto Hospital, Toronto, Ontario.

Arch Surg. 1997;132(12):1263-1270. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1997.01430360009002

Objective:  To study the effect of the systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) or major elective surgery on the apoptosis of circulating polymorphonuclear neutrophils because an activated inflammatory response is terminated, in part, through the programmed cell death, or apoptosis, of its effector cells.

Design:  A prospective inception cohort study.

Setting:  A mixed surgical and medical intensive care unit of an adult tertiary care hospital.

Patients:  Sixteen patients with SIRS, 7 uninfected patients who had undergone elective aortic aneurysmectomy, and 8 healthy laboratory control subjects.

Interventions:  Serial blood samples were drawn for evaluation of neutrophil apoptosis, activational state, and surface receptor expression by flow cytometry.

Main Outcome Measures:  Spontaneous apoptosis was significantly delayed in neutrophils from patients with SIRS (8.6%±6.8%) and patients who had undergone elective aortic aneurysmectomy (11.0%±5.0%) when compared with controls (34.9%±6.8%). These neutrophils were activated as evidenced by enhanced respiratory burst activity and augmented surface expression of CD11b. Apoptosis in response to engagement of cell surface Fas (also known as CD95 or APO-1) with an agonistic antibody was blunted. Plasma from patients with SIRS or patients who had undergone elective aortic aneurysmectomy suppressed the apoptotic responses of control neutrophils (plasma from patients with SIRS, 18.8%±10.3%; plasma from patients who had undergone elective aortic aneurysmectomy, 20.0%±6.1%; P<.01). Western blot analysis showed normal expression of the key proapoptotic proteases, interleukin 1 β converting enzyme and CPP32 (also known as YAMA, apopain, and caspase 3), indicating that delayed apoptosis was not a consequence of decreased levels of proapoptotic enzymes.

Conclusions:  Circulating neutrophils from patients with SIRS or from patients who have undergone major elective surgery show delayed expression of constitutive programmed cell death, and antiapoptotic factors are present in the general circulation. While prolonged neutrophil survival may represent an appropriate adaptive response to injury, the presence of activated and apoptosis-resistant cells in an antiapoptotic environment may contribute to the systemic inflammatory injury characteristic of SIRS and predispose to the development of the multiple organ dysfunction syndrome.Arch Surg. 1997;132:1263-1270

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