Progressive magnesium deficiency increases mortality from endotoxin challenge: protective effects of acute magnesium replacement therapy

Crit Care Med. 1995 Jan;23(1):108-18. doi: 10.1097/00003246-199501000-00019.


Objectives: To study the effects of endotoxin on magnesium homeostasis; to determine if progressive magnesium deficiency alters outcome from endotoxin challenge; and to evaluate the efficacy of magnesium therapy in reducing endotoxin-induced mortality.

Design: Prospective, placebo-controlled, randomized, multiexperiment studies.

Setting: Research laboratory of a university hospital.

Subjects: Male Sprague Dawley rats (n = 299).

Interventions: Experiment 1 was designed to test if endotoxin alters magnesium homeostasis. Circulating total and ionized magnesium (estimated by ultrafilterable values) concentrations were determined in blood samples collected from animals after the randomized administration of placebo or 0.3, 3.0, or 30 mg/kg of endotoxin. A baseline blood sample was collected and then a second blood sample was obtained at 5, 15, 30, 60, 120, or 180 mins after endotoxin or placebo administration. In experiment 2, animals were randomized to receive magnesium-sufficient diets or magnesium-deficient diets for 6 wks. After 6 wks, the effects of the randomized administration of 3.0 mg/kg endotoxin or placebo were evaluated on mortality and analyte values (pH and blood gases, sodium, potassium, chloride, glucose, ionized calcium, hematocrit, total and ultrafilterable magnesium concentrations) in the three study groups (magnesium-sufficient, 3-wk magnesium-deficient, or 6-wk magnesium-deficient). In experiment 3, magnesium-deficient animals were randomized to receive 50 mmol/kg magnesium chloride or placebo, before or after the administration of 3.0 mg/kg of endotoxin. Baseline and 24-hr analyte determinations were performed and outcome was analyzed.

Measurements and main results: Experiment 1: Significant increases (p < .05) in circulating total magnesium concentrations were found in animals that received 30 mg/kg of endotoxin, at 120 mins (0.79 +/- 0.10 vs. 0.60 +/- 0.05 mmol/L), and 180 mins (0.74 +/- 0.04 vs. 0.56 +/- 0.04 mmol/L) compared with baseline values. Similarly, significant increases (p < .05) in ionized magnesium concentrations were observed 120 and 180 mins after 3.0 and 30 mg/kg of endotoxin compared with baseline values. Experiment 2: Magnesium deficiency was strongly (p < .02) associated with increased mortality from endotoxin challenge. Endotoxin administration (3.0 mg/kg) was lethal in 10 (43%) of 23 magnesium-sufficient animals, 15 (65%) of 23 3-wk magnesium-deficient animals, and 20 (83%) of 24 6-wk magnesium-deficient animals. Experiment 3: In magnesium-deficient animals, rats treated with magnesium replacement therapy had significantly increased survival from endotoxin administration (15 [52%] of 29 vs. five [17%] of 29, p < .01) compared with placebo-treated animals.

Conclusions: a) Endotoxin challenge causes significant increases in circulating total and ionized magnesium concentrations. b) Progressive magnesium deficiency is strongly associated with increased lethality, and magnesium replacement therapy provides significant protection from endotoxin challenge. c) These experimental results support the concept that cellular injury is probably associated with increases in circulating magnesium concentrations. Furthermore, these experimental findings suggest that magnesium deficiency predisposes to worse outcome from endotoxin challenge, and that replacement therapy in the setting of magnesium deficiency may be warranted, especially in critically ill subjects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Endotoxins / administration & dosage
  • Endotoxins / pharmacology*
  • Escherichia coli
  • Homeostasis
  • Magnesium / administration & dosage*
  • Magnesium / metabolism
  • Magnesium Deficiency / drug therapy
  • Magnesium Deficiency / metabolism
  • Magnesium Deficiency / mortality*
  • Male
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Survival Rate


  • Endotoxins
  • endotoxin, Escherichia coli
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium