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Brain Behav Immun. 1988 Sep;2(3):267-74.

Interleukin-1 induces changes in norepinephrine metabolism in the rat brain.

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  • 1Research Department, Cantonal Hospital, Basel, Switzerland.


Interleukin-1 (IL-1) is a hormone that, apart from playing a key role in immune and inflammatory processes, can also affect mechanisms under brain control. To gain a better understanding of the action of this cytokine on the CNS, its effects on the contents of norepinephrine (NE), dopamine (DA) and serotonin (5-HT), and their main metabolites and precursors, were evaluated in different regions of the forebrain, brain stem, and spinal cord. Following administration of human recombinant IL-1 (beta form) to rats, a modest decrease in the content of NE was observed in the hypothalamus as well as in the dorsal posterior brain stem. However, the most relevant finding was that 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylethylene glycol (MHPG), the main NE metabolite, and the relation MHPG/NE were increased in all the regions studied, revealing a stimulatory effect of IL-1 on NE metabolism in the CNS. This effect seems to be specific for NE since no comparable changes in the brain content of DA, 5-HT, or its metabolite, 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid, were detected after administration of the cytokine. However, tryptophan was significantly increased in all brain regions and in the cervical spinal cord. The capacity of IL-1 to affect the metabolism of NE, a neurotransmitter involved in the control of a variety of brain functions, provides further proof for the relevance of this cytokine in brain-immune interactions.

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