Procalcitonin has bioactivity at calcitonin receptor family complexes: Potential mediator implications in sepsis*

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Context:Sepsis is a major cause of death in the United States and accounts for ∼50% of the fatalities in intensive care units. Serum procalcitonin (ProCT) levels are markedly elevated in sepsis and correlate positively with severity of the illness and mortality, however, little is known about the biological activity of ProCT.Objective:To explore the biological activity of purified human ProCT at the calcitonin (CT) family of receptors.Design:Human ProCT was purified from the TT medullary thyroid carcinoma cell line. Human CTa receptor or human CT receptor-like receptor (CLR) was transiently expressed in COS-7 cells alone or together with individual receptor activity-modifying proteins (RAMPs) to generate the CTa (CT) receptor, the AMY1 (amylin) receptor, the CGRP1 (CT gene-related peptide) receptor, and the AM1 and AM2 (adrenomedullin) receptors. Biological activity of ProCT was assessed by measurement of cAMP accumulation.Results:ProCT was effectively inert at CTa, AM1, and AM2 receptors. In contrast, it was a potent partial agonist (50–60% of the CGRP efficacy) of the CGRP1 receptor with an EC50 as high as 0.56 nM, although the potency was batch dependent. ProCT also displayed weak partial agonist activity at the AMY1 receptor with an EC50 of ∼100 nM. Moreover, ProCT also robustly inhibited CGRP-dependent cyclic adenosine monophosphate responses at the CGRP1 receptor.Conclusions:Our data provide a potential molecular mechanism for the observation that ProCT appears to be toxic while CGRP treatment appears to be beneficial in animal models of sepsis.

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