Open Access Open Badges Research

Race and gender variation in response to evoked inflammation

Jane F Ferguson1*, Parth N Patel1, Rhia Y Shah1, Claire K Mulvey1, Ram Gadi1, Prabhjot S Nijjar2, Haris M Usman1, Nehal N Mehta13, Rachana Shah4, Stephen R Master5, Kathleen J Propert6 and Muredach P Reilly1*

Author Affiliations

1 Cardiovascular Institute, Perelman School of Medicine, at the University of Pennsylvania, 11-136 Smilow Center for Translational Research, Building 421, 3400 Civic Center Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA

2 Division of Cardiology, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, USA

3 National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Bethesda, MD, USA

4 Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, Children’s Hospital, Philadelphia, PA, USA

5 Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine, at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA

6 Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Perelman School of Medicine, at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA

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Journal of Translational Medicine 2013, 11:63  doi:10.1186/1479-5876-11-63

Published: 12 March 2013



Race- and gender-variation in innate immunity may contribute to demographic differences in inflammatory and cardiometabolic disease; yet their influence on dynamic responses during inflammatory stress is poorly understood. Our objective was to examine race and gender influence on the response to experimental endotoxemia.


The Genetics of Evoked Responses to Niacin and Endotoxemia (GENE) study was designed to investigate regulation of inflammatory and metabolic responses during low-grade endotoxemia (LPS 1 ng/kg intravenously) in healthy individuals (median age 24, IQR=7) of European (EA; n=193, 47% female) and African ancestry (AA; n=101, 59% female).


Baseline clinical, metabolic, and inflammatory biomarkers by race and gender were consistent with epidemiological literature; pre-LPS cytokines (e.g. median (IQR) IL-6, 2.7 (2) vs.2.1 (2) pg/ml, P=0.001) were higher in AA than EA. In contrast, acute cytokine responses during endotoxemia were lower in AA than EA (e.g. median (IQR) peak IL-1RA, 30 (38) vs.43 (45) ng/ml P=0.002) as was the induction of hepatic acute-phase proteins (e.g. median (IQR) peak CRP 12.9 (9) vs.17.4 (12) mg/L P=0.005). Further, baseline levels of cytokines were only weakly correlated with peak inflammatory responses (all rs <0.2) both in AA and in EA. There were less pronounced and less consistent differences in the response by gender, with males having a higher AUC for CRP response compared to females (median (IQR) AUC: 185 (112) vs. 155 (118), P=0.02).


We observed lower levels of evoked inflammation in response to endotoxin in AA compared with EA, despite similar or higher baseline levels of inflammatory markers in AA. Our data also suggest that levels of inflammatory biomarkers measured in epidemiological settings might not predict the degree of acute stress-response or risk of diseases characterized by activation of innate immunity.

Trial registration

FDA registration number NCT00953667