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BioMed Research International
Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 6130725, 7 pages
Research Article

Procalcitonin Impairs Liver Cell Viability and Function In Vitro: A Potential New Mechanism of Liver Dysfunction and Failure during Sepsis?

1Clinic for Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, University Hospital Rostock, Rostock, Germany
2Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology, EXIM, Rostock, Germany

Correspondence should be addressed to Martin Sauer

Received 12 November 2016; Revised 5 January 2017; Accepted 10 January 2017; Published 1 February 2017

Academic Editor: Anastasia Kotanidou

Copyright © 2017 Martin Sauer et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Purpose. Liver dysfunction and failure are severe complications of sepsis and result in poor outcome and increased mortality. The underlying pathologic mechanisms of hepatocyte dysfunction and necrosis during sepsis are only incompletely understood. Here, we investigated whether procalcitonin, a biomarker of sepsis, modulates liver cell function and viability. Materials and Methods. Employing a previously characterized and patented biosensor system evaluating hepatocyte toxicity in vitro, human hepatocellular carcinoma cells (HepG2/C3A) were exposed to 0.01–50 ng/mL procalcitonin for  h and evaluated for proliferation, necrosis, metabolic activity, cellular integrity, microalbumin synthesis, and detoxification capacity. Acetaminophen served as positive control. For further standardization, procalcitonin effects were confirmed in a cellular toxicology assay panel employing L929 fibroblasts. Data were analyzed using ANOVA/Tukey’s test. Results. Already at concentrations as low as 0.25 ng/mL, procalcitonin induced HepG2/C3A necrosis () and reduced metabolic activity, cellular integrity, synthesis, and detoxification capacity (all ). Comparable effects were obtained employing L929 fibroblasts. Conclusion. We provide evidence for procalcitonin to directly impair function and viability of human hepatocytes and exert general cytotoxicity in vitro. Therapeutical targeting of procalcitonin could thus display a novel approach to reduce incidence of liver dysfunction and failure during sepsis and lower morbidity and mortality of septic patients.