Circulating bacterial membrane vesicles cause sepsis in rats

Shock. 2012 Jun;37(6):621-8. doi: 10.1097/SHK.0b013e318250de5d.


Gram-negative bacteria remain the leading cause of sepsis, a disease that is consistently in the top 10 causes of death internationally. Curing bacteremia alone does not necessarily end the disease process as other factors may cause inflammatory damage. Bacterial outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) are naturally produced blebs from the outer membrane of gram-negative bacteria, which contain various proteins and lipopolysaccharide (LPS). We hypothesize that these vesicles initiate an inflammatory response independent of the parent bacteria. Outer membrane vesicles were isolated from cultures of Escherichia coli, and the concentration of LPS in the OMVs was measured. Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were separated into five treatment groups: OMV, 2xOMV, LPS, lactated Ringer's, and sham. Our findings show that infused OMVs elicit physiological, histological, and molecular changes in rats that are consistent with sepsis. Hyperdynamic changes in heart rates and mean arterial pressures are observed as well as the elevation of the proinflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor α and interleukin 6. Downstream events such as the recruitment of neutrophils into tissues due to the presentation of vascular adhesion molecules also occur in OMV-treated animals. Although soluble LPS elicits stronger responses than did OMVs, responses to the latter consistently exceeded those associated with lactated Ringer's infusion. These results indicate OMVs, independent of the parent bacteria, do initiate an inflammatory response; however, further studies are required to better characterize the temporal biomolecular interactions involved.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / blood
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / physiology*
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sepsis / blood
  • Sepsis / microbiology*
  • Sepsis / physiopathology


  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins