Sepsis-induced alterations in phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase expression: The role of insulin and glucagon

C. S. Deutschman*, A. De Maio, T. G. Buchman, M. G. Clemens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Sepsis is associated with a decrease in the intrinsic gluconeogenic capacity of hepatocytes. The mechanism underlying this depression is unknown. This study sought to investigate whether decreased expression of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK), a rate limiting enzyme in hepatic gluconeogenesis, might contribute to the decreased gluconeogenesis in sepsis. Therefore, we determined the effects of sepsis on the steady-state level of PEPCK mRNA and on PEPCK activity. Further, levels of insulin and glucagon, which modulate PEPCK expression under normal conditions, were also measured. Rats were subjected to either cecal ligation and puncture, or sham operation. Twenty-four hr later, the steady-state level of PEPCK mRNA was determined by Northern Blot hybridization analysis, and PEPCK activity was measured by 14C incorporation into phosphoenolpyruvate. Insulin and glucagon levels were determined by radioimmunoassay, and the insulin/glucagon ratio calculated. The steady-state levels of PEPCK mRNA were significantly decreased in septic animals relative to sham-operated animals. The specific activity of PEPCK in sham-operated animals was 1.67 ± 0.25 U/mg protein, compared to 0.93 ± 0.18 U/mg protein in septic animals (P < 0.05). The insulin/glucagon ratio was lower in septic animals than in sham-operated controls. To investigate the specific effect of the insulin-glucagon ratios observed in septic and sham operated rats on hepatocytes under non-septic conditions, cultures of primary rat hepatocytes were used. These cells were incubated with levels of insulin and glucagon equivalent to those found following cecal ligation and puncture or sham operation. Hormonal conditions designed to mimic sepsis were associated with an increase in PEPCK expression. These data suggest that, during sepsis, the steady-state levels of the mRNA coding for PEPCK are not dependent on the observed hormonal milieu. Decreased expression of PEPCK may, therefore, contribute to the intrinsic defect in hepatic gluconeogenesis associated with sepsis. Further, it appears that there is a significant sepsis-induced alteration in the ability of insulin and glucagon to modulate the levels of mRNA coding for PEPCK.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-302
Number of pages8
JournalCirculatory Shock
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • glucagon
  • gluconeogenesis
  • hepatocytes
  • insulin
  • liver
  • phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinases
  • sepsis


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