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A Colson, B Willems, and JP Thissen

Sepsis and endotoxin (LPS or lipopolysaccharide) injection induce a state of growth hormone (GH) resistance leading to decreased circulating insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I. Because the proinflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha and interleukin (IL)-1beta inhibit the GH-stimulated IGF-I expression in vitro, it was tempting to speculate that these two cytokines might play an important role in the reduction of circulating IGF-I levels caused by LPS. Pentoxifylline, a methylxanthine usually used in the treatment of peripheral arterial circulatory disorders, has been reported to inhibit TNF-alpha synthesis. The goal of our study was to investigate whether inhibition of TNF-alpha production by pentoxifylline could prevent the decrease in IGF-I and the GH resistance caused by LPS injection. Because previous studies demonstrated that pentoxifylline can reduce muscle catabolism induced by sepsis, we also assessed whether pentoxifylline could exert its anticatabolic effect by preventing the decrease in circulating IGF-I. LPS injection in rats decreased serum IGF-I (-45% at 12 h; P<0.01 vs time 0) and its liver mRNA (-67% at 12 h; P<0.01 vs time 0) while it induced circulating TNF-alpha and IL-1beta and their hepatic expression (P<0.01). Pretreatment of LPS-treated animals by pentoxifylline abolished the LPS-induced rise in serum TNF-alpha (-98% at 90 min; P<0.001 vs LPS alone) and to a lesser extent in serum IL-1beta (-44% at 3 h; not significant vs LPS alone). Despite its dramatic inhibitory effect on TNF-alpha induction, however, pentoxifylline failed to suppress both the decrease in IGF-I and the GH resistance induced by LPS in rats. These results suggest that mediators other than TNF-alpha, in particular IL-1beta or IL-6, could contribute to the GH resistance induced by LPS. They also suggest that the anticatabolic effect of pentoxifylline is not due to prevention of the decline of circulating IGF-I.