Autophagy-related IRGM polymorphism is associated with mortality of patients with severe sepsis

PLoS One. 2014 Mar 13;9(3):e91522. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0091522. eCollection 2014.


Objective: Autophagy is the regulated catabolic process for recycling damaged or unnecessary organelles, which plays crucial roles in cell survival during nutrient deficiency, and innate immune defense against pathogenic microorganisms. Autophagy has been also reported to be involved in various conditions including inflammatory diseases. IRGM (human immunity-related GTPase) has an important function in eliminating Mycobacterium tuberculosis from host cells via autophagy. We examined the association between genetic polymorphism and clinical course/outcome in severely septic patients.

Methods: The study included 125 patients with severe sepsis/septic shock (SS) and 104 non-sepsis patients who were admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) of Chiba University Hospital between October 2001 and September 2008 (discovery cohort) and 268 SS patients and 454 non-sepsis patients who were admitted to ICUs of five Japanese institutions including Chiba University Hospital between October 2008 and September 2012 (multi-center validation cohort). Three hundred forty seven healthy volunteers who consented to this study were also included. Genotyping was performed for a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) within the coding region of IRGM, IRGM(+313) (rs10065172). Lipopolysaccharide challenge of whole blood from randomly selected healthy volunteers (n = 70) was performed for comparison of IRGM mRNA expression among different genotypes.

Results: No significant difference in genotypic distributions (CC/CT/TT) at the IRGM(+313) locus was observed among the three subject groups (SS, non-sepsis, and healthy volunteers) in either cohort. When mortality were compared, no significant difference was observed in the non-sepsis group, while TT homozygotes exhibited a significantly higher mortality than the CC+CT genotype category in the SS group for both cohorts (P = 0.043, 0.037). Lipopolysaccharide challenge to whole blood showed a significant suppression of IRGM mRNA expression in TT compared with the CC+CT genotype category (P = 0.019).

Conclusions: The data suggest that the IRGM(+313), an autophagy-related polymorphic locus, influences outcome in severely septic patients, with the possible involvement of autophagy in sepsis exacerbation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Autophagy*
  • Cell Survival
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Genotype
  • Homozygote
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Inflammation / microbiology
  • Japan
  • Lipopolysaccharides / chemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Sepsis / genetics*
  • Sepsis / microbiology
  • Sepsis / mortality*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • GTP-Binding Proteins
  • IRGM protein, human

Grant support

This work was supported by the Grants-in-Aid for Young Scientists (B) of Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (#23792070) from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports Science, and Technology, Japan (TK). This work was also supported by ZENKYOREN (EW). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.