Using a mouse model of thermal injury, we studied why antimicrobial peptides are not produced at the burn-site tissues and how this defect contributes to the increased susceptibility to Pseudomonas aeruginosa burn-wound infection. Logarithmic growth of P. aeruginosa was demonstrated locally (at the burn site) and systemically (in circulation) in thermally injured mice exposed to 10(2) CFU/mouse of the pathogen beneath the burn wound. However, neither systemic nor local growth of the pathogen was observed in sham burn mice when they were infected intradermally with 10(6) CFU/mouse P. aeruginosa. Murine beta-defensins (MBDs) were detected in the skin homogenates of sham burn mice. However, the amounts of MBDs were reduced greatly in the same tissue homogenates from thermally injured mice. Gr-1(+)CD11b(+) cells, with an ability to suppress antimicrobial peptide production by skin keratinocytes, were isolated from tissues surrounding the burn areas, and these cells were not obtained from skin tissues of sham burn mice. After intradermal inoculation of Gr-1(+)CD11b(+) cells, which were isolated from burn-site tissues, the production of antimicrobial peptides around the cell-inoculation site of sham burn mice decreased. Also, like thermally injured mice, these mice were shown to be susceptible to P. aeruginosa intradermal infection. These results indicate that sepsis stemming from P. aeruginosa burn-wound infection is accelerated by burn-induced Gr-1(+)CD11b(+) cells with abilities to suppress antimicrobial peptide production by epidermal keratinocytes.