Leptin Protects Against Mortality and Organ Dysfunction in A Two-Hit Trauma/Sepsis Model and is IL-6-Dependent

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Leptin is thought to play an important role in the regulation of the immune system. In patients, leptin is inversely proportional to interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels. Thus, the objective of our study was to evaluate a dose-dependent therapeutic impact of leptin with possible IL-6-dependency on immune actions and outcome in a trauma/sepsis model.

Materials and Methods:

Sixty-nine wild-type and 63 IL-6−/− mice were subdivided into three groups: trauma/sepsis group (first hit: femur fracture and hemorrhage; second hit: cecal ligation and puncture 2 days later), trauma group (first hit and laparotomy), sham group (laparotomy only). Each group received vehicle or leptin (2.5 μg/g (leptin1) or 5 μg/g (leptin2)) subcutaneously and was observed for 8 days after induction of the first hit. Mortality, humoral, and cellular immune markers were determined.


We revealed a dose-dependent anti-inflammatory effect of exogenous leptin in the sepsis groups and to some extent a pro-inflammatory effect in the sham groups. Leptin administration resulted in a decreased mortality in septic wild-type mice (trauma/sepsis vehicle group: 36.4%, trauma/sepsis leptin1 group: 25%, trauma/sepsis leptin2 group: 0%) and in an increased mortality in septic IL-6−/− mice (53.8%, 83.4%, 100%). All mice of the trauma groups and sham groups survived. In wild-type trauma/sepsis mice, exogenous leptin led to increased levels of CD4+ and CD8+ in the spleen, and a less pronounced type IV hypersensitivity (P ≤ 0.039). Furthermore, it decreased the levels of tumor necrosis factor-α and IL-6, not reaching statistical significance.


Due to the fact that leptin administration to traumatized and septic mice seems to have a positive effect on their outcome via IL-6 and does not negatively impact their medical condition if applied preventively, leptin might be a therapeutic agent for the prevention, or treatment of sepsis-related detrimental outcome after initial trauma.

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