An In Vitro Method to Investigate the Microbicidal Potential of Human Macrophages for Use in Psychosomatic Research

Kuebler, Ulrike; Ehlert, Ulrike; Zuccarella, Claudia; Sakai, Miho; Stemmer, Andreas; Wirtz, Petra H. (2013). An In Vitro Method to Investigate the Microbicidal Potential of Human Macrophages for Use in Psychosomatic Research. Psychosomatic medicine, 75(9), pp. 841-848. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000008

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OBJECTIVE: Psychological states relate to changes in circulating immune cells, but associations with immune cells in peripheral tissues such as macrophages have hardly been investigated. Here, we aimed to implement and validate a method for measuring the microbicidal potential of ex vivo isolated human monocyte-derived macrophages (HMDMs) as an indicator of macrophage activation. METHODS: The method was implemented and validated for two blood sampling procedures (short-term cannula insertion versus long-term catheter insertion) in 79 participants (34 women, 45 men) aged between 18 and 75 years. The method principle is based on the reduction of 2-(4-iodophenyl)-3-(4-nitrophenyl)-5-(2,4-dis-ulfophenyl)-2H-tetrazolium, monosodium salt (WST-1) by superoxide anions, the first in a series of pathogen-killing reactive oxygen species produced by phorbol myristate acetate-activated HMDM. Cytochrome c reduction and current generation were measured as reference methods for validation purposes. We further evaluated whether depressive symptom severity (Beck Depression Inventory) and chronic stress (Chronic Stress Screening Scale) were associated with macrophage microbicidal potential. RESULTS: The assay induced superoxide anion responses by HMDM in all participants. Assay results depended on blood sampling procedure (cannula versus catheter insertion). Interassay variability as a measure for assay reliability was 10.92% or less. WST-1 reduction scores correlated strongly with results obtained by reference methods (cytochrome c: r = 0.57, p = .026; current generation: r values ≥ 0.47, p values <.033) and with psychological factors (depressive symptom severity: r = 0.35 [cannula insertion] versus r = -0.54 [catheter insertion]; chronic stress: r = 0.36 [cannula insertion]; p values ≤ .047). CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that the implemented in vitro method investigates microbicidal potential of HMDM in a manner that is valid and sensitive to psychological measures.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy

UniBE Contributor:

Zuccarella, Claudia and Wirtz, Petra Hedwig


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Lippincott Williams & Wilkins




Claudia Zuccarella

Date Deposited:

22 Apr 2014 17:30

Last Modified:

13 Feb 2017 10:26

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:





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