Human sepsis increases lymphocyte intracellular calcium

Crit Care Med. 1993 Feb;21(2):196-202. doi: 10.1097/00003246-199302000-00009.


Objective: To determine whether free intracellular calcium is increased during human bacterial sepsis.

Design: Prospective controlled study of lymphocyte free intracellular calcium concentrations from patients with sepsis compared with critically ill nonseptic patients and healthy subjects.

Setting: A large multidisciplinary ICU of a university hospital.

Patients: Eleven patients with sepsis, six patients after cardiac surgery, six patients with head injury, and 22 healthy control subjects.

Interventions: Blood samples obtained for lymphocyte isolation and measurement of free intracellular calcium concentrations.

Measurements: Lymphocytes were isolated using Ficoll-paque centrifugation and free intracellular calcium concentrations were measured using the fluorescent dye fura-2. We also evaluated the effect of septic serum, endotoxin, tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and lysophosphatidylcholine on lymphocyte free intracellular calcium concentrations.

Main results: Mean (+/- SEM) lymphocyte free intracellular calcium concentrations were significantly (p < .05) higher in the septic patients (176 +/- 12 nM) compared with cardiac surgical (112 +/- 9 nM), head-injured (110 +/- 11 nM), or healthy control patients (112 +/- 5 nM). Endotoxin (0.1 and 1.0 mg/mL) and TNF (10 and 100 ng/mL) did not alter lymphocyte free intracellular calcium values. Lysophosphatidylcholine (100 and 200 microM) significantly increased lymphocyte free intracellular calcium in a dose-dependent manner. Septic serum had no effect on resting lymphocyte free intracellular calcium concentrations but potentiated the free intracellular calcium response to lysophosphatidylcholine.

Conclusions: Lymphocyte intracellular calcium homeostasis is altered during human sepsis. In addition, circulating factors present in septic serum are capable of altering cellular calcium handling.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bacterial Infections / blood*
  • Bacterial Infections / metabolism
  • Calcium / blood*
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / blood
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Intracellular Fluid / metabolism
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies


  • Calcium