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To investigate the role of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) in postoperative polymicrobial abdominal sepsis.Sepsis is the leading cause of death among critically ill surgical patients. TRAIL is commonly known as an apoptosis-inducing agent in cancer cells. It also plays an important role in the regulation of inflammatory reactions. The role of TRAIL in polymicrobial sepsis is still unclear.Experimental animal model.University laboratory.C57BL/6 mice.Colon ascendens stent peritonitis (CASP) was induced in female mice. One hour, 24 hrs, and 48 hrs after induction of CASP, murine recombinant TRAIL was given intravenously.This study demonstrates a protective effect of TRAIL in CASP, an experimental model of murine polymicrobial sepsis. Intravenous administration of recombinant TRAIL to mice after CASP induction led to highly significantly prolonged survival. The migration of effector cells into the peritoneal cavity was strongly enhanced. Consequently, TRAIL-treated mice eliminated bacteria significantly better from the peritoneal cavity, the source of infection. Systemic spread of gut bacteria was also reduced by several orders of magnitude. As a result of the reduced systemic spread of bacteria, the accumulation of neutrophils within the spleen and mesenteric lymph nodes was strongly decreased.TRAIL-treated mice are highly protected from abdominal sepsis. Because diagnosis and therapy are frequently delayed in human sepsis, it is remarkable that TRAIL is effective when given via a therapeutic approach. Therefore, this study suggests a therapeutic potential for TRAIL in human sepsis. This should be addressed in future trials.