Akt decreases lymphocyte apoptosis and improves survival in sepsis

Ursula Bommhardt, Katherine C. Chang, Paul E. Swanson, Tracey H. Wagner, Kevin W. Tinsley, Irene E. Karl, Richard S. Hotchkiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


Sepsis induces extensive death of lymphocytes that may contribute to the immunosuppression and mortality of the disorder. The serine/threonine kinase Akt is a key regulator of cell proliferation and death. The purpose of this study was to determine whether overexpression of Akt would prevent lymphocyte apoptosis and improve survival in sepsis. In addition, given the important role of Akt in cell signaling, T cell Th1 and Th2 cytokine production was determined. Mice that overexpress a constitutively active Akt in lymphocytes were made septic, and survival was recorded. Lymphocyte apoptosis and cytokine production were determined at 24 h after surgery. Mice with overexpression of Akt had a marked improvement in survival compared with wild-type littermates, i.e., 94 and 47% survival, respectively, p < 0.01. In wild-type littermates, sepsis caused a marked decrease in IFN-γ production, while increasing IL-4 production >2-fold. In contrast, T cells from Akt transgenic mice had an elevated production of IFN-γ at baseline that was maintained during sepsis, while IL-4 had little change. Akt overexpression also decreased sepsis-induced lymphocyte apoptosis via a non. Bcl-2 mechanism. In conclusion, Akt overexpression in lymphocytes prevents sepsis-induced apoptosis, causes a Th1 cytokine propensity, and improves survival. Findings from this study strengthen the concept that a major defect in sepsis is impairment of the adaptive immune system, and suggest that strategies to prevent lymphocyte apoptosis represent a potential important new therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7583-7591
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2004


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