Identification of therapeutic targets in a murine model of severe exertional heat stroke


Kentaro Oki

Chloe G. Henderson

Shauna M. Ward

Jermaine A. Ward

Mark L. Plamper

Thomas A. Mayer

Aaron R. Caldwell

Lisa R. Leon


October 1, 2022

Exertional heat stroke (EHS) is a potentially lethal condition resulting from high core body temperatures (TC) in combination with a systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) with varying degrees of severity across victims, and limited understanding of the underlying mechanism(s). We established a mouse model of severe EHS to identify mechanisms of hyperthermia/inflammation that may be responsible for organ damage. Mice were forced to run on a motorized wheel in a 37.5°C chamber until loss of consciousness and were either removed immediately (exertional heat injury or EHI; TCMax = 42.4 ± 0.2°C) or remained in the chamber an additional 20 min (EHS; TCMax = 42.5 ± 0.4°C). Exercise control mice (ExC) experienced identical procedures to EHS at 25°C. At 3 h post-EHS, there was evidence for an immune/inflammatory response as elevated blood chemokine [interferon γ-induced protein 10 (IP-10), keratinocytes-derived chemokine (KC), macrophage inflammatory proteins (MIP-1α), MIP-1β, MIP-2] and cytokine [granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF), interleukins (IL-10), IL-6] levels peaked and were highest in EHS mice compared with EHI and ExC mice. Immunoblotting of organs susceptible to EHS damage indicated that several kinases were sensitive to stress associated with heat/inflammation and exercise; specifically, phosphorylation of liver c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) at threonine 183/tyrosine 185 immediately (0 h) postheating related to heat illness severity. We have established a mouse EHS model, and JNK [or its downstream target(s)] could underlie EHS symptomatology, allowing the identification of molecular pathways or countermeasure targets to mitigate heat illness severity, enable complete recovery, and decrease overall EHS-related fatalities.