Gas6 downregulates the activation state of macrophages and thereby their production of proinflammatory cytokines induced by various stimuli. We aimed to determine whether Gas6 is involved in sepsis. We measured Gas6 plasma levels in 13 healthy subjects, 29 patients with severe sepsis, and 18 patients with non-infectious inflammatory diseases. Gas6 level was higher in septic patients than in control groups (P≤0.0001). The sensitivity and specificity of Gas6 levels to predict fatal outcome were 83% and 88%. We next investigated whether Gas6 affects cytokine production and outcome in experimental models of endotoxemia and peritonitis in wild-type (WT) and Gas6−/− mice. Circulating levels of Gas6 after LPS 25mg/kg i.p. peaked at 1 hour (P<0.001). Similarly, TNF-α was higher in Gas6−/− than in WT mice 1 hour after LPS (P<0.05). Furthermore, 62 anti- and pro-inflammatory cytokines were quantified in plasma after LPS injection. Their levels were globally higher in Gas6−/− plasma after LPS, 47/62 cytokines being at least 50% higher in Gas6−/− than in WT plasma after 1 hour. Mortality induced by 25mg/kg LPS was 25% in WT versus 87% in Gas6−/− mice (P<0.05). LPS-induced mortality in Gas6 receptors Axl−/−, Tyro3−/− and Merkd was also enhanced when compared to WT mice (P<0.001). In peritonitis models (cecal ligation and puncture, CLP, and i.p. injection of E. coli), Gas6 plasma levels increased and remained elevated at least 24 hours. CLP increased mortality in Gas6−/− mice. Finally, we explored the role of Gas6 in LPS-treated macrophages. We found that Gas6 was released by LPS-stimulated WT macrophages and that Gas6−/− macrophages produced more TNF-α and IL-6 than WT macrophages. Cytokine release by Gas6−/− macrophages was higher than by WT macrophages (cytokine array). Adjunction of recombinant Gas6 to the culture medium of Gas6−/− macrophages diminished the cytokine production to WT levels. In LPS-treated Gas6−/− macrophages, Akt and Erk1/2 phosphorylation was reduced whereas p38 and NFκB activation was enhanced. Thus, in septic patients, elevated Gas6 levels were associated with fatal outcome. In mice, they raised in experimental endotoxemia and peritonitis models, and correlated also with sepsis severity. However, Gas6−/− mice survival in these models was reduced compared to WT. Gas6 secreted by macrophages in response to LPS activated Akt and restrained p38 and NFκB activation, thereby dampening macrophage activation. Altogether these data suggest that, during endotoxemia, Gas6−/− mice phenotype resembles that of mice which have undergone PI3K inhibition, indicating that Gas6 is a major modulator of innate immunity.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.