Procalcitonin (PCT) is a peptide precursor of the hormone calcitonin, the latter being involved with calcium homeostasis. It was first identified by Leonard J. Deftos and Bernard A. Roos in the 1970s. It is composed of 116 amino acids and is produced by parafollicular cells (C cells) of the thyroid and by the neuroendocrine cells of the lung and the intestine.
The level of procalcitonin in the blood stream of healthy individuals is below the limit of detection (0.01 µg/L) of clinical assays. The level of procalcitonin rises in a response to a proinflammatory stimulus, especially of bacterial origin. In this case, it is produced mainly by the cells of the lung and the intestine. It does not rise significantly with viral or non-infectious inflammations. With the derangements that a severe infection with an associated systemic response brings, the blood levels of procalcitonin may rise to 100 µg/L. In serum, procalcitonin has a half-life of 25 to 30 hours. Remarkably the high procalcitonin levels produced during infections are not followed by a parallel increase in calcitonin or a decrease in serum calcium levels