Rapid alterations in transferrin sialylation during sepsis.Shock. 2005 Jul; 24(1):48-52.S
The inflammatory process is associated with alterations in iron metabolism. Transferrin, an acute-phase N-glycosylated glycoprotein, plays an important role in iron transport. Human serum transferrin contains two biantennary glycans, each consisting of 0 to 4 molecules of sialic acid (SA); its SA content is heterogeneous with high concentration of tetrasialotransferrin (4SA) and low amounts of disialo-, trisialo-, penta-, and hexasialotransferrin. The hepatic uptake of iron is greater for desialylated transferrin isoforms (disialotransferrin) than for the other forms. We hypothesized that serum levels of carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT, disialotransferrin) may increase rapidly in septic patients. Blood samples were obtained from critically ill patients with (n = 15) and without (n = 14) documented sepsis and compared with healthy volunteers. The different forms of transferrin were studied by capillary zone electrophoresis; SA concentrations were measured by enzymatic colorimetric assay. There was a significant increase in the proportion of CDT in septic compared with nonseptic patients and volunteers (18.3% [1.3-30.5] vs. 0.7% [0.5-0.9]; P < 0.01 and 0.9% [0.5-1.1]; P < 0.05). Conversely, tri- and tetrasialotransferrin levels were lower in septic patients. Total and free SA concentrations were significantly higher in septic patients than in healthy volunteers. In a sheep model of septic shock secondary to peritonitis, serum free SA was already increased after 15 h. Sepsis is associated with decreased SA content on circulating transferrin and with an increase in blood free SA concentrations. In view of these rapid modifications and the long half-life of transferrin, the most likely explanation is degradation of transferrin by neuraminidase. Further studies including measurement of blood neuraminidase concentration and activity are needed to understand the process and exact role of SA decrease in septic patients.