Objectives: The knowledge that agmatine is found in the human body has existed for several years; however, its role in sepsis has not yet been studied. In the present study, we investigate the role of agmatine in the progression and treatment of sepsis.
Design: Clinical/laboratory investigations.
Setting: Medical centers/University-based research laboratory.
Subjects: Elective ICU patients with severe sepsis and healthy volunteers; C57BL/6 mice weighing 18-22 g.
Interventions: Serum agmatine level and its associations with inflammatory markers were assessed in patients with sepsis. Agmatine was administered intraperitoneally to mice before a lipopolysaccharide challenge. Human peripheral blood mononuclear cells and murine macrophages were pretreated with agmatine followed by lipopolysaccharide stimulation.
Measurements and main results: Serum agmatine levels were significantly decreased in patients with sepsis and lipopolysaccharide-induced mice, and correlated with Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II score, procalcitonin, tumor necrosis factor-α, and interleukin-6 levels. In a therapeutic experiment, exogenous agmatine attenuated the cytokine production of peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients with sepsis and healthy controls. Agmatine also exerted a significant beneficial effect in the inflammatory response and organ damage and reduced the death rate in lipopolysaccharide-induced mice. Imidazoline I2 receptor agonist 2-benzofuran-2-yl blocked the pharmacological action of agmatine; whereas, other imidazoline receptor ligands did not. Furthermore, agmatine significantly impaired the inflammatory response by inactivating nuclear factor-κB, but not protein 38 mitogen-activated protein kinase, c-Jun N-terminal kinase, extracellular signal-regulated kinase, and inducible nitric oxide synthase signaling in macrophages. Activation of imidazoline I2 receptor or knockdown of ribosomal S6 kinase 2 counteracted the effects of agmatine on phosphorylation and degradation of inhibitor of nuclear factor-κBα.
Conclusions: Endogenous agmatine metabolism correlated with the progression of sepsis. Supplemental exogenous agmatine could ameliorate the lipopolysaccharide-induced systemic inflammatory responses and multiple organ injuries through the imidazoline I2 receptor-ribosomal S6 kinase 2-nuclear factor-κB pathway. Agmatine could be used as both a clinical biomarker and a promising pharmaconutrient in patients with severe sepsis.