Bioenergetic failure of human peripheral blood monocytes in patients with septic shock is mediated by reduced F1Fo adenosine-5′-triphosphate synthase activity*

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Increasing evidence points to the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in the pathogenesis of sepsis. Previous data indicate that mitochondrial function is affected in monocytes from septic patients, but the underlying mechanisms and the impact of these changes on the patients' outcome are unknown. We aimed to determine the mechanisms involved in mitochondrial dysfunction in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients with septic shock.


A cohort of patients with septic shock to study peripheral blood mononuclear cell mitochondrial respiration by high-resolution respirometry analyses and to compare with cells from control subjects.


Three intensive care units and an academic research laboratory.


Twenty patients with septic shock and a control group composed of 18 postoperative patients without sepsis or shock.


Ex vivo measurements of mitochondrial oxygen consumption were carried out in digitonin-permeabilized peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 20 patients with septic shock taken during the first 48 hrs after intensive care unit admission as well as in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from control subjects. Clinical parameters such as hospital outcome and sepsis severity were also analyzed and the relationship between these parameters and the oxygen consumption pattern was investigated.

Measurements and Main Results:

We observed a significant reduction in the respiration specifically associated with adenosine-5′-triphosphate synthesis (state 3) compared with the control group (5.60 vs. 9.89 nmol O2/min/107 cells, respectively, p < .01). Reduction of state 3 respiration in patients with septic shock was seen with increased prevalence of organ failure (r = −0.46, p = .005). Nonsurviving patients with septic shock presented significantly lower adenosine diphosphate-stimulated respiration when compared with the control group (4.56 vs. 10.27 nmol O2/min/107 cells, respectively; p = .004). Finally, the presence of the functional F1Fo adenosine-5'-triphosphate synthase complex (0.51 vs. 1.00 ng oligo/mL/106 cells, p = .02), but not the adenine nucleotide translocator, was significantly lower in patients with septic shock compared with control cells.


Mitochondrial dysfunction is present in immune cells from patients with septic shock and is characterized as a reduced respiration associated to adenosine-5′-triphosphate synthesis. The molecular basis of this phenotype involve a reduction of F1Fo adenosine-5′-triphosphate synthase activity, which may contribute to the energetic failure found in sepsis.

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