Background: Monocyte deactivation is an important contributor to infectious susceptibility in critically ill patients. However, the mechanism of monocyte deactivation has not been fully elucidated. Recently, intracellular heme oxygenese-1 (HO-1), an anti-inflammatory heat-shock protein, was reported to be activated by Toll-like receptors (TLRs), and to inhibit inflammatory cytokine production such as that of TNF-alpha. In the present study, we evaluated the expression of intracellular HO-1 and TLRs in monocytes from patients with severe systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) and examined the role of HO-1 in monocyte deactivation.
Patients: Twenty-seven patients who fulfilled the criteria for severe SIRS and had a serum C-reactive protein (CRP) level >10 mg/dL were included in this study. The cause of SIRS was sepsis in 16 patients, trauma in 7, and other in 4. Expression of intracellular HO-1, surface TLR2 and TLR4, and intracellular cytokines (TNF-alpha, Interleukin-6) stimulated via TLR activation were measured in circulating monocytes by flow cytometry. Intracellular HO-1 expression was evaluated in normal monocytes stimulated with patient serum. Serum cytokine levels were also measured. Patient data were compared with data from healthy volunteers (n = 16).
Results: Cytoplasmic HO-1 was clearly detected by fluorescence microscopy. Expression of HO-1, TLR2, and TLR4 in monocytes was significantly enhanced in patients with severe SIRS compared with that in healthy volunteers, whereas intracellular TNF-alpha expression with peptidoglycan was significantly decreased (p < 0.05) in patients compared with that in healthy volunteers. HO-1 expression was significantly enhanced in normal monocytes stimulated with patient serum. Intracellular HO-1 levels were positively related to serum TNF-alpha levels in patients (r = 0.46).
Conclusions: Expression of intracellular HO-1 and of TLRs was enhanced in deactivated monocytes from patients with SIRS. Increased production of intracellular HO-1 in response to serum factors may play a role in monocyte deactivation after systemic inflammation.