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BACKGROUND: Multiple organ failure (MOF) is the key determinant of mortality in acute pancreatitis (AP). Mesenteric lymph cytotoxicity contributes to organ failure in experimental models of systemic inflammation. The aim of this study was to evaluate the mesenteric lymph pathway and the lymph injury proteome in experimental AP-associated MOF, and to test the hypothesis that immunoregulatory tryptophan catabolites contribute to mesenteric lymph cytotoxicity. METHODS: Using an experimental model of AP in rats, the humoral component of mesenteric lymph in AP was compared with that from sham-operated control animals, using in vitro and in vivo cytotoxicity assays, high-throughput proteomics and high-performance liquid chromatography. The experimental findings were corroborated in a cohort of 34 patients with AP. RESULTS: Compared with biologically inactive lymph from sham-operated rats, mesenteric lymph in AP became cytotoxic 3 h after induction. Hierarchical clustering of lymph proteomic mass spectra predicted the biological behaviour of lymph. Levels of the immunoregulatory tryptophan catabolite, 3-hydroxykynurenine, were increased in cytotoxic lymph and re-created cytotoxicity in vitro. In humans with AP, plasma kynurenine concentrations correlated in real time with MOF scores and preceded a requirement for mechanical ventilation and haemodialysis. CONCLUSION: These results support the concept that mesenteric lymph-borne kynurenines may contribute to pancreatitis-associated MOF.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Surg

Publication Date





855 - 867


Acute Disease, Animals, Kynurenine, Ligation, Lymph, Male, Mesentery, Multiple Organ Failure, Neutrophils, Pancreatitis, Proteome, Rats, Rats, Sprague-Dawley, Respiratory Burst, Tryptophan