Wound hypoxia and acidosis limit neutrophil bacterial killing mechanisms

Arch Surg. 1997 Sep;132(9):991-6. doi: 10.1001/archsurg.1997.01430330057009.


Background: "Respiratory burst" activity, ie, O2- production, is dependent on PO2, temperature, pH, and glucose concentrations within the physiologic range.

Objectives: To determine whether environmental conditions characteristic of wounds may limit human neutrophil respiratory burst metabolism and to clarify the degree to which bactericidal oxidant production depends on local PO2.

Methods: Human blood and wound neutrophils were stimulated with phorbol myristate acetate. Oxygen consumption and superoxide production were measured over a range of 30 to 300 mm Hg PO2, 0 to 40 mmol/L glucose, pH 6.0 to 8.0, and 30 degrees C to 37 degrees C. The apparent Michaelis Menten constant for oxidant production with respect to PO2 was calculated.

Results: Oxygen consumption and O2- production were dependent on PO2 throughout the range tested. Half-maximal oxidant production occurred in the range of 45 to 80 mm Hg PO2 and maximal at PO2 higher than 300 mm Hg. These data agree with the highest previous estimates. Oxidant generation was also dependent on pH, temperature, and glucose concentration, but to a lesser extent.

Conclusions: Leukocyte bacterial killing capacity as measured by oxygen consumption and superoxide production are substantially impaired at the low oxygen tensions often found in wounds. Changes in pH, temperature, and glucose concentration have lesser but nonetheless significant consequences. The data provide a plausible mechanism for the vulnerability of some wounds to infection and for the previous finding that increasing oxygen tension at wound sites enhances bactericidal function. Thus, the data serve as a basis for future studies on prevention of wound infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acidosis / immunology
  • Acidosis / metabolism*
  • Blood Bactericidal Activity / physiology*
  • Cell Separation
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Hypoxia / immunology
  • Hypoxia / metabolism*
  • Neutrophils / immunology
  • Neutrophils / metabolism*
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Partial Pressure
  • Superoxides / metabolism
  • Temperature
  • Wound Infection / immunology
  • Wound Infection / metabolism*


  • Superoxides
  • Glucose