Role of angiopoietin-2 in infection – A double-edged sword?

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The endothelial angiopoietin (Angpt)/Tie2 ligand receptor system maintains vascular quiescence and modulates the response to injury. Angpt-1 is considered the natural Tie2 agonist and receptor ligation leads to its phosphorylation inducing various protective downstream pathways. The natural antagonist – Angpt-2 – appears to inhibit these protective effects. In sepsis, the balance between both ligands is shifted in favor for Angpt-2 and the vasculature is highly dysfunctional, activated and leaky. Circulating levels of Angpt-2 strongly predict mortality in septic patients. Consistently, experimental strategies that target Angpt-2 (e.g. antibody, RNAi, etc.) can protect the vascular barrier and improve survival. However, in vitro is has also been shown that Angpt-2 can act as a dose-dependent Tie2 agonist/antagonist. Based on this, people have wondered if Angpt-2 is per se injurious or if it might have protective effects dependent on the scenario. A recent paper by Safioleas and colleagues showed survival benefits after a therapeutic injection of recombinant Angpt-2 in experimental pyelonephritis. Here, we discuss their counter-intuitive but interesting findings and put them into a global context with respect to the existent literature in the angiopoietin/Tie2 sepsis field.

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