Honokiol Increases CD4+ T Cell Activation and Decreases TNF but Fails to Improve Survival Following Sepsis

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Honokiol is a biphenolic isolate extracted from the bark of the magnolia tree that has been used in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine, and has more recently been investigated for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Honokiol has previously been demonstrated to improve survival in sepsis models that have rapid 100% lethality. The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of Honokiol on the host response in a model of sepsis that more closely approximates human disease. Male and female C57BL/6 mice underwent cecal ligation and puncture to induce polymicrobial intra-abdominal sepsis. Mice were then randomized to receive an injection of either Honokiol (120 mg/kg/day) or vehicle and were sacrificed after 24 h for functional studies or followed 7 days for survival. Honokiol treatment after sepsis increased the frequency of CD4+ T cells and increased activation of CD4+ T cells as measured by the activation marker CD69. Honokiol also increased splenic dendritic cells. Honokiol simultaneously decreased frequency and number of CD8+ T cells. Honokiol decreased systemic tumor necrosis factor without impacting other systemic cytokines. Honokiol did not have a detectable effect on kidney function, lung physiology, liver function, or intestinal integrity. In contrast to prior studies of Honokiol in a lethal model of sepsis, Honokiol did not alter survival at 7 days (70% mortality for Honokiol vs. 60% mortality for vehicle). Honokiol is thus effective in modulating the host immune response and inflammation following a clinically relevant model of sepsis but is not sufficient to alter survival.

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