Increased oxidative phosphorylation in lymphocytes does not atone for decreased cell numbers after burn injury

Tony Chao, Belinda I. Gomez, Tiffany C. Heard, Michael A. Dubick, David M. Burmeister*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The acute systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) and multiorgan dysfunction (MOD) that occur in large burn injuries may be attributed, in part, to immunosuppressive responses such as decreased lymphocytes. However, the mitochondrial bioenergetics of lymphocytes after severe burn injury are poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to examine mitochondrial function of lymphocytes following severe burns in a swine model. Anesthetized Yorkshire swine (n = 17) sustained 40% total body surface area full-thickness contact burns. Blood was collected at pre-injury (Baseline; BL) and at 24 and 48 h after injury for complete blood cell analysis, flow cytometry, cytokine analysis, and ficoll separation of intact lymphocytes for high-resolution mitochondrial respirometry analysis. While neutrophil numbers increased, a concomitant decrease was found in lymphocytes (P < 0.001) after burn injury, which was not specific to CD4+ or CD8+ lymphocytes. No changes in immune cell population were observed from 24 h to 48 h post-injury. IL 12-23 decreased while a transient increase in IL 4 was found from BL to 24h (P < 0.05). CRP progressively increased from BL to 24h (P < 0.05) and 48h (P < 0.001) post-injury. Routine and maximal mitochondrial respiration progressively increased from BL to 24h (P < 0.05) and 48 h post-injury (P < 0.001). No changes were found in leak respiration or residual oxygen consumption. When considering the reduction in lymphocyte number, the total peripheral lymphocyte bioenergetics per volume of blood significantly decreased from BL to 24h and 48h (P < 0.05). For the first time, we were able to measure mitochondrial activity in intact lymphocyte mitochondria through high-resolution respirometry in a severely burned swine model. Our data showed that the non-specific reduction in peripheral T cells after injury was larger than the increased mitochondrial activity in those cells, which may be a compensatory mechanism for the total reduction in lymphocytes. Additional studies in the metabolic activation of T cell subpopulations may provide diagnostic or therapeutic targets after severe burn injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-412
Number of pages10
JournalInnate Immunity
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Burn
  • lymphocyte
  • mitochondria
  • oxidative phosphorylation
  • swine


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