Introduction: To investigate the significance of changes in regulatory T cells (Tregs) activity and its relationship with sepsis, as well as outcome of patients with major burns.
Methods: The periphery blood samples of 106 patients were collected on post-burn days 1, 3, 7, 14, and 21. Tregs were isolated and their phenotypes (cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 and forkhead/winged helix transcription factor p3) were analyzed by flow cytometry, and the contents of cytokines (interleukin-10 and transforming growth factor-beta1) released into supernatants by Tregs were also determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay kits. Gene expressions of cytokines were assessed by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction.
Results: Expressions of Tregs phenotypes and gene/protein expression of cytokines were all elevated after burn, and there were obvious differences among patients with various burn sizes. They were also higher in septic patients than those without sepsis. Among septic patients, the expressions of Tregs phenotypes and the levels of cytokines were markedly lower in the survival group than those in patients with fatal outcome.
Conclusions: Severe burn injury per se could lead to the changes in Tregs activities. Elevated levels of cytokines produced by Tregs and activation markers on Tregs surface might play an important role in the pathogenesis of sepsis and mortality in burned patients.