Capsaicin-sensitive nerves regulate the metabolic response to abdominal sepsis

Patrick Bryant, Margaret Shumate, Gladys Yumet, Charles H. Lang, Thomas C. Vary, Robert N. Cooney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background. Both the systemic release of inflammatory mediators and activation of the neuroendocrine axis by sensory afferent nerves (SANs) have been implicated as initiators of the metabolic response to infection. In this study, we investigate the role of SANs as mediators of protein catabolism and the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) axis during abdominal sepsis using capsaicin (Cap) to selectively destroy nociceptive sensory axons. Methods. Four groups of male Sprague-Dawley rats were studied: Control, Control+Cap, Sepsis, and Sepsis+Cap. Rats were injected with Cap (75 mg/kg) on day 1 and (50 mg/kg) on day 2 to destroy SANs. Time-matched control and septic rats were pair-fed and injected with vehicle on the same schedule. Controls underwent sham laparotomy, while septic rats had a fecal-agar pellet inoculated with Escherichia coli and Bacteroides fragilis implanted in the peritoneal cavity. Blood and tissues were harvested 5 days after the induction of sepsis. Plasma IGF-I, IGFBP-1, and -3 were measured by radioimmunoassay and Western blot analysis. IGF-I, acid-labile subunit (ALS), IGFBP-1 and -3 mRNA levels were determined by Northern blot analysis. Results. Mortality was 40% in septic rats vs 0% in the sepsis+Cap group. Capsaicin had no effect on muscle mass, protein content, or the IGF system in control rats. However, sepsis-induced reductions in gastrocnemius mass (25%) and protein content (35%) were ameliorated by capsaicin. The sepsis-induced decrease in hepatic IGF-I mRNA and circulating IGF-I (26%), as well as the 4-fold increase in plasma IGFBP-1 and hepatic IGFBP-1 mRNA were prevented by capsaicin. Conclusions. Capsaicin-sensitive nerves mediate mortality, the catabolism of skeletal muscle, and selected elements of the IGF system during abdominal sepsis. The results suggest an important role for nociceptive SANs and the neuroendocrine system in mediating the host response to abdominal infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-161
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 15 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery


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