Background: Recently, we reported an unexpected ubiquitous expression of calcitonin (CT)-mRNA in a hamster peritonitis model of sepsis. Using this animal model,we undertook a study to further investigate the pattern of expression of the calcitonin I (CALC-I) gene and CT gene-related peptide (CGRP)-mRNA in sepsis.
Methods: Live Escherichia coli impregnated in agar pellets were implanted in the peritoneal cavities of hamsters. Twelve hours after sepsis induction, the septic and healthy control animals were sacrificed and tissues and peritoneal macrophages were collected. CGRP-mRNA content was evaluated by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), quantitated by the Taq-Man technique, and compared with the mRNA expression of CT, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), and interleukin-6 (IL-6). The 5' untranslated regions of the mRNA and potential alternative splicing sites were identified by 5' rapid amplification of cDNA ends.
Results: We found a tissue-wide, ubiquitous and uniform expression of CGRP-mRNA in all septic tissues examined. CGRP-mRNA was detectable by RT-PCR in various extraneuronal and extrathyroidal septic tissues, but not in healthy control tissues. As found for CT-mRNA in our earlier studies, CGRP-mRNA seemed to be more specifically up-regulated as compared with other classical cytokines (ie, II-6 and TNF-alpha). Importantly, the 5' untranslated sequence in control and septic thyroid was similar to the sequence obtained from septic spleen.
Conclusions: We postulate the presence of microbial infection-specific response elements in the CALC-I gene promotor, which, upon a specific stimulus, override the tissue-selective expression pattern. This new form of endocrine plasticity may be of importance in the response to systemic inflammation.