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Molecular Characterization of the Acute Inflammatory Response to Infections with Gram-Negative versus Gram-Positive Bacteria

American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date
  • Host Response And Inflammation
  • Biology


Sepsis caused by gram-negative bacteria and that caused by gram-positive bacteria often manifest similar clinical features. We investigated plasma proinflammatory cytokine profiles in patients with sepsis due to gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria and studied the cytokine production and differential gene regulation of leukocytes stimulated ex vivo with Escherichia coli lipopolysaccharide or heat-killed Staphylococcus aureus. Concentrations of tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin 1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra), IL-8, IL-10, IL-18 binding protein, procalcitonin, and protein C in plasma did not differ between patients with sepsis due to gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. However, plasma IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-18 concentrations were significantly higher in patients with sepsis due to gram-positive bacteria. Ex vivo stimulation of whole blood with heat-killed S. aureus markedly increased IL-1β and IL-18 levels more than E. coli lipopolysaccharide stimulation. Microarray analysis revealed at least 359 cross-validated probe sets (genes) significant at the P < 0.001 level whose expression discriminated among gram-negative-organism-stimulated, gram-positive-organism-stimulated, and unstimulated whole-blood leukocytes. The host inflammatory responses to gram-negative and gram-positive stimuli share some common response elements but also exhibit distinct patterns of cytokine appearance and leukocyte gene expression.

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