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Laboratory and Animal Investigations |

Initial Evidence of Endothelial Cell Apoptosis as a Mechanism of Systemic Capillary Leak Syndrome*

Ragheb Assaly, MD; Dan Olson, MD, PhD, FCCP; Jeffrey Hammersley, MD, FCCP; Pan-Sheng Fan, MD; Jiang Liu, PhD; Joseph I. Shapiro, MD; M. Bashar Kahaleh, MD
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*From the Departments of Medicine and Pharmacology, Medical College of Ohio, Toledo, OH.

Correspondence to: M. Bashar Kahaleh, MD, Professor of Medicine and Chief, Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, Medical College of Ohio, 3000 Arlington Ave, Toledo, OH 43614; e-mail: bkahaleh@mco.edu



Chest. 2001;120(4):1301-1308. doi:10.1378/chest.120.4.1301
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Background: Systemic capillary leak syndrome (SCLS) is a rare disorder of unknown etiology that is characterized by acute recurrent attacks of hypovolemic shock commonly following an inflammatory stimulus such as a viral illness. Prophylactic therapy is generally ineffective, and the outcome is frequently fatal.

Methods: In order to investigate the cellular mechanisms leading to SCLS, we examined the effects of sera from two patients with active SCLS on microvascular endothelial cell apoptosis in vitro. Apoptosis was determined by morphologic criteria, DNA fragmentation, annexin V stain, and by a quantitative photometric assay. The apoptotic pathway was investigated by Western blot of endothelial cells lysate after exposure to SCLS sera.

Results: The sera from patients with active SCLS mediated profound apoptosis of microvascular endothelial cells shortly after exposure. The exposed microvascular endothelial cells underwent immediate apoptosis as evidenced by morphologic changes, plasma membrane phosphatidylserine exposure, and by DNA fragmentation. Increased Bax/Bcl-2 ratio in endothelial cells exposed to SCLS sera was observed and suggested an oxidation injury as the possible mechanism for endothelial apoptosis. This potential mechanism was further explored by measuring intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) following SCLS serum exposure. Sera from both patients caused marked increases in ROS, initially detectable at 1 h and persisted for at least 12 h, with control serum from healthy subjects showing no effect on basal endothelial cell ROS concentrations.

Conclusion: Components from the sera of patients with active systemic capillary leak syndrome in contrast to healthy subject sera mediate early and extensive endothelial apoptosis in vitro that is associated with oxidation injury. These data represent compelling initial evidence for oxidation-induced apoptosis as a likely mechanism for endothelial injury leading to SCLS.

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