A non-linear mixed effect model for innate immune response: <i>In vivo</i> kinetics of endotoxin and its induction of the cytokines tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin-6

<div><p>Endotoxin, a component of the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria, has been extensively studied as a stimulator of the innate immune response. However, the temporal aspects and exposure-response relationship of endotoxin and resulting cytokine induction and tolerance development is less well defined. The aim of this work was to establish an <i>in silico</i> model that simultaneously captures and connects the <i>in vivo</i> time-courses of endotoxin, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and associated tolerance development. Data from six studies of porcine endotoxemia in anesthetized piglets (n = 116) were combined and used in the analysis, with purified endotoxin (<i>Escherichia coli</i> O111:B4) being infused intravenously for 1–30 h in rates of 0.063–16.0 μg/kg/h across studies. All data were modelled simultaneously by means of importance sampling in the non-linear mixed effects modelling software NONMEM. The infused endotoxin followed one-compartment disposition and non-linear elimination, and stimulated the production of TNF-α to describe the rapid increase in plasma concentration. Tolerance development, observed as declining TNF-α concentration with continued infusion of endotoxin, was also driven by endotoxin as a concentration-dependent increase in the potency parameter related to TNF-α production (<i>EC</i><sub><i>50</i></sub>). Production of IL-6 was stimulated by both endotoxin and TNF-α, and four consecutive transit compartments described delayed increase in plasma IL-6. A model which simultaneously account for the time-courses of endotoxin and two immune response markers, the cytokines TNF-α and IL-6, as well as the development of endotoxin tolerance, was successfully established. This model-based approach is unique in its description of the time-courses and their interrelation and may be applied within research on immune response to bacterial endotoxin, or in pre-clinical pharmaceutical research when dealing with study design or translational aspects.</p></div>