Protective effect of astaxanthin against multiple organ injury in a rat model of sepsis

J Surg Res. 2015 May 15;195(2):559-67. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2015.02.026. Epub 2015 Feb 18.


Background: Astaxanthin, a xanthophyll carotenoid, holds exceptional promise as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer agent. No evidence has been published whether it has protective effects on sepsis. The study aimed to investigate the potential effects of astaxanthin on sepsis and multiple organ dysfunctions.

Materials and methods: Sepsis was induced by cecal ligation and puncture (CLP) in Sprague-Dawley rats. Animals subjected to CLP and sham-operated control rats were given vehicle or astaxanthin 100 mg/kg/d by oral gavage for 7 d before the operation. The rats were killed at the indicated time points, and the specimen was collected. Cytokines and multiorgan injury-associated enzymatic and oxidative stress indicators were investigated. Multiorgan tissues were assessed histologically, the peritoneal bacterial load and the 72-h survival was observed too.

Results: Sepsis resulted in a significant increase in serum tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin-1β, and interleukin-6 levels showing systemic inflammatory response; it also caused a remarkable decrease in the superoxide dismutase activity and a significant increase in the malondialdehyde content showing oxidative damage; sepsis caused a great increase in organ injury-associated indicators, including blood urea nitrogen, creatinine, lactate dehydrogenase, creatine kinase isoenzyme-MB isotype, alanine aminotransferase, and aspartate aminotransferase, which was confirmed by histologic examination. And there was a dramatical increase of colony-forming units in the peritoneal cavity in septic rats. Astaxanthin reversed these inflammatory and oxidant response, alleviated the organ injury, reduced the peritoneal bacterial load, and improved the survival of septic rats induced by CLP.

Conclusions: Astaxanthin exerts impressively protective effects on CLP-induced multiple organ injury. It might be used as a potential treatment for clinical sepsis.

Keywords: Astaxanthin; Cecal ligation and puncture; Multiple organ dysfunction syndrome; Sepsis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Creatine Kinase, MB Form / blood
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Male
  • Multiple Organ Failure / prevention & control*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sepsis / drug therapy*
  • Sepsis / immunology
  • Xanthophylls / therapeutic use


  • Cytokines
  • Xanthophylls
  • astaxanthine
  • Creatine Kinase, MB Form