Sepsis is a systemic response to infection that can affect brain function by inducing resident cells (including astrocytes and microglia) to generate brain chemokines and cytokines. However, there are few studies on the human brain. Since this information may shed further light on pathogenesis, our study objective was to measure the expression of 36 chemokines and cytokines in autopsied brain from 3 cases of sepsis and 10 controls, and to relate this to astrocyte and microglial activation.
The right frontal pole was removed at autopsy and chemokine and cytokine expression measured by multiplexed enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). Immunohistochemistry and image analysis were carried out to determine the expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), a marker of activated astrocytes, and CD68 and CD45, markers of activated microglial cells.
Concentrations of the chemokines CXCL8, CXCL10, CXCL12, CCL13 and CCL22 were increased in pooled data from the three cases of sepsis (p<0.05); however, their messenger RNA (mRNA) expression was unaltered. CXCL13, CXCL1, CXCL2, CCL1, CCL2, CCL8, CCL20, (interleukin) IL-16, IL-1β and (tumour necrosis factor) TNF concentrations showed increases in two of three sepsis cases. Additionally, individual sepsis cases showed increases in mRNA expression for HDAC (histone deacetylase) 6 and EIF (eukaryotic translation initiation factor) 4A2. Brain GFAP expression was significantly increased (p<0.05) in pooled data from the three sepsis cases. Individual sepsis cases showed increases in CD68 or CD45 expression.
These expression patterns add to our understanding of the pathogenesis of sepsis and its effects on the brain.