Epidermal growth factor (EGF) is a cytoprotective peptide that has healing effects on the intestinal mucosa. We sought to determine whether systemic administration of EGF after the onset of sepsis improved intestinal integrity and decreased mortality. FVB/N mice were subjected to either sham laparotomy or 2 × 23 cecal ligation and puncture (CLP). Septic mice were further randomized to receive injection of either 150 μg kg -1 d -1 (i.p.) EGF or 0.9% saline (i.p.). Circulating EGF levels were decreased after CLP compared with sham animals but were unaffected by giving exogenous EGF treatment. In contrast, intestinal EGF levels increased after CLP and were further augmented by exogenous EGF treatment. Intestinal EGF receptor was increased after CLP, whether assayed by immunohistochemistry, real-time polymerase chain reaction, or Western blot, and exogenous EGF treatment decreased intestinal EGF receptor. Villus length decreased 2-fold between sham and septic animals, and EGF treatment resulted in near total restitution of villus length. Sepsis decreased intestinal proliferation and increased intestinal apoptosis. This was accompanied by increased expression of the proapoptotic proteins Bid and Fas-associated death domain, as well as the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21 cip1/waf. Epidermal growth factor treatment after the onset of sepsis restored both proliferation and apoptosis to levels seen in sham animals and normalized expression of Bid, Fas-associated death domain, and p21 cip1/waf. To determine whether improvements in gut homeostasis were associated with a decrease in sepsis-induced mortality, septic mice with or without EGF treatment after CLP were followed 7 days for survival. Mortality decreased from 60% to 30% in mice treated with EGF after the onset of sepsis (P < 0.05). Thus, EGF may be a potential therapeutic agent for the treatment of sepsis in part due to its ability to protect intestinal integrity.
- Cecal Ligation and puncture