Objective: For several chronic inflammatory disease states, therapy is enhanced by improving the pharmacokinetic properties of anti-inflammatory drugs through conjugation with polyethylene glycol. We hypothesized that part of the beneficial action of PEGylated drugs may be derived from the anti-inflammatory properties of polyethylene glycol (PEG) itself.
Design: Randomized, double-blinded, controlled ex vivo and in vivo laboratory studies.
Setting: University research laboratories.
Subjects: Human neutrophils and mononuclear cells, macrophage cell line, and adult rats and mice.
Interventions: The effect of PEG (either low-molecular-weight [200-400] or high-molecular-weight [>4000]) was assessed on survival after systemic inflammation induced by lipopolysaccharide or zymosan. The effects of PEG on zymosan, lipopolysaccharide, or streptolysin-induced inflammatory and bioenergetic responses of immune cells were also assessed.
Measurements and main results: Low-molecular-weight PEG reduced inflammatory cytokine expression, pyrexia, and mortality by >50% in both lipopolysaccharide and zymosan models of sepsis. Low-molecular-weight PEG reduced cytokine expression both in vivo and in vitro, and attenuated activation of human neutrophils in response to lipopolysaccharide or zymosan. By contrast, high-molecular-weight PEG conferred less significant survival effects after lipopolysaccharide and zymosan, and it did not exhibit such profound anti-inflammatory effects. Low-molecular-weight PEG attenuated lipopolysaccharide-induced activation of pro-apoptotic pathways (lysophosphatidic acid receptor and caspase-domain signaling) in the livers of endotoxemic rats. Streptolysin-induced necrosis of human neutrophils was reduced by low-molecular-weight PEG, indicating a mechanism that involves coating and/or stabilizing the cellular membrane. Low-molecular-weight PEG preserved human neutrophil responses to septic serum and bioenergetic function in macrophages and neutrophils.
Conclusion: PEG is a commonly used, safe, nonimmunogenic molecule possessing hitherto unappreciated anti-inflammatory properties. Low-molecular-weight PEG may potentially play a role in the therapy of systemic inflammation and sepsis.