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Sepsis and septic shock are important causes of morbidity and lethality in noncoronary intensive care units. Circulating levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs) are reduced in sepsis/septic shock, and the magnitude of this reduction is positively correlated with the severity of the illness. The mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are incompletely understood, although increased levels of several acute-phase proteins, including serum amyloid A (SAA) and secretory phospholipase A2 (sPLA2), may contribute to the decrease in plasma HDLs. It has been suggested that HDLs possess anti-inflammatory properties and, hence, may play a crucial role in innate immunity by regulating the inflammatory response as well as being capable of reducing the severity of organ injury in animals and patients with septic shock. These protective effects of HDLs are mediated mainly via (a) lipopolysaccharide (LPS) binding and neutralization, (b) the HDL-associated enzymes, plasma paraoxonase (PON1) and platelet-activating factor acetylhydrolase (PAF-AH), which protect low-density lipoproteins against peroxidative damage, (c) inhibition of the expression of endothelial cell adhesion molecules and release of proinflammatory cytokines, which prevents inflammatory cell infiltration and subsequent multiple organ dysfunction, and (d) stimulation of the expression of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). Thus, HDL exerts potent anti-inflammatory effects, some of which are independent of endotoxin binding and might be useful in the treatment of patients with not only sepsis/septic shock but also other conditions associated with an uncontrolled inflammatory response, such as ischemia-reperfusion injury and hemorrhagic shock.