Sepsis is characterized by a dysregulated inflammatory response to infection. Despite studies in mice, the cellular and molecular basis of human sepsis remains unclear and effective therapies are lacking. Blood monocytes serve as the first line of host defense and are equipped to recognize and respond to infection by triggering an immune-inflammatory response. However, the response of these cells in human sepsis and their contribution to sepsis pathogenesis is poorly understood. To investigate this, we performed a transcriptomic, functional, and mechanistic analysis of blood monocytes from patients during sepsis and after recovery. Our results revealed the functional plasticity of monocytes during human sepsis, wherein they transited from a pro-inflammatory to an immunosuppressive phenotype, while enhancing protective functions like phagocytosis, anti-microbial activity, and tissue remodeling. Mechanistically, hypoxia inducible factor-1α (HIF1α) mediated this functional re-programming of monocytes, revealing a potential mechanism for their therapeutic targeting to regulate human sepsis.
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