Altered Gene Transcription After Burn Injury Results in Depressed T-Lymphocyte Activation

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ObjectivePatients with major burns and an animal model of burn injury were studied to determine the mechanism of depressed interleukin-2 (IL-2) production after thermal injury and to determine the effect of such injury on IL-2 receptor (IL-2R) expression and function.Summary Background DataMajor burn injury is known to diminish resistance to infection by altering cytokine production and prostanoic secretion and by inhibiting T-lymphocyte activation. T-cell activation requires production of regulatory cytokines, principally IL-2, and expression of the appropriate cytokine receptors. Depressed IL-2 production after major burn injury is undisputed, although the molecular mechanisms remain undefined; the effect of burn injury on IL-2R expression and function currently is controversial.MethodsThe authors studied serial samples of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from 11 patients with 25% to 95% surface area burns and 7 age-matched volunteer control subjects. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were stimulated by the T-cell mitogen phytohemagglutinin (PHA), and IL-2 production and mRNA expression by Northern blot were determined. Expression and function of IL-2R were determined by monoclonal antibodies to the p55 and p75 chains of the IL-2R, binding of fluorescein-labeled IL-2, and response to exogenous recombinant IL-2. We also studied a mouse model of 20% burn injury known to mimic the immune abnormalities seen in humans with burns. Splenocytes from mice with burns (20–22 per group) were studied for IL-2 production and IL-2 mRNA expression after stimulation with the T-cell mitogen concanavalin A (ConA) and compared with sham burn control subjects. Kinetics of mRNA expression after ConA stimulation also were determined and a nuclear run-on assay performed to determine IL-2 gene transcription. The mRNA expression was determined for the proto-oncogenes c-jun and c-fos, whose protein products join to form transcription factor AP1, which is necessary for activation of the IL-2 promoter. Splenocytes from mice with burns after ConA stimulation also were studied for expression and function of the IL-2R.ResultsPeripheral blood mononuclear cells from burn patients compared with healthy control subjects showed diminished (p < 0.05) IL-2 production and mRNA expression 4 to 10 days after burn injury. Burn PBMC demonstrated normal expression of IL-2R, p55, and p75 chains 0 to 7,8 to 20,

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