Intestinal cytokine response after gut ischemia: role of gut barrier failure

Ann Surg. 1999 Apr;229(4):478-86. doi: 10.1097/00000658-199904000-00005.


Objective: To investigate the effect of intestinal ischemia with and without a reperfusion injury on intestinal cytokine production and gut permeability.

Summary background data: In humans and in animal models, the gut has been implicated as a cytokine-producing organ after ischemia/reperfusion (I/R)-type injuries. Because of the limitations of in vivo models, it has been difficult to demonstrate directly that the gut releases cytokines after an I/R injury or whether there is a relation between the magnitude of the ischemic process and the cytokine response.

Methods: Ileal mucosal membranes from rats subjected to sham or 45 or 75 min of superior mesenteric occlusion (SMAO) or 45 minutes of SMAO and 30 minutes of reperfusion (SMAO 45/30) were mounted in the Ussing chamber system. Levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6 were serially measured in the mucosal and serosal reservoirs of the Ussing system, as was mucosal permeability as reflected by the passage of bacteria or phenol red across the ileal membrane. In a second group of experiments, Escherichia coli C25 was added to the mucosal reservoir to determine if the cytokine response would be increased.

Results: Mucosal and serosal levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha were equally increased after SMAO, with the highest levels in the 75-minute SMAO group. The highest levels of interleukin-6 were found in rats subjected to 75 minutes of SMAO or SMAO 45/30; the serosal levels of interleukin-6 were four to sixfold higher than the mucosal levels. The addition of E. coli C25 resulted in a significant increase in the amount of interleukin-6 or tumor necrosis factor-alpha recovered from the mucosal reservoir. Increased ileal membrane permeability was observed only in rats subjected to 75 minutes of SMAO or SMAO 45/30.

Conclusion: These results directly document that the levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6 released from the gut increase after an ischemic or I/R injury, such as SMAO, and that there is a relation between the magnitude of the gut ischemic or I/R insult and the cytokine response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Translocation
  • Interleukin-6 / biosynthesis*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Intestines / blood supply*
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Ischemia / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Permeability
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reperfusion Injury / metabolism*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / biosynthesis*


  • Interleukin-6
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha