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Brain Behav Immun. 1994 Mar;8(1):37-56.

Inhibition of neural and neuroendocrine activity by alpha-interferon: neuroendocrine, electrophysiological, and biochemical studies in the rat.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Louisiana State University Medical Center, Shreveport 71130-3932.

Erratum in

  • Brain Behav Immun 1994 Dec;8(4):374.


In our earlier studies we have demonstrated that recombinant human interferon-alpha 2A (rHu-IFN-alpha 2A) inhibits hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) secretion following both peripheral and central administration. Furthermore, this effect is antagonized by mu-opioid receptor antagonists, suggesting transduction by this subtype of opioid receptors. In the present studies, we demonstrate that this effect is also observed with the hybrid recombinant preparation, rHu-IFN-alpha A/D, and a leucocyte-derived rat IFN-alpha preparation. The inhibitory effects on HPA activity were observed after intraperitoneal (i.p.) injections of rHu-IFN-alpha 2A (10(3) U), rHu-IFN-alpha A/D (10(4) U), and of Rat-IFN-alpha (1 and 10 U). Similar effects were observed with intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) administration of all three IFN-alpha preparations. No increases in plasma concentrations of corticosterone were observed with doses of rHu-IFN-alpha A/D up to 10(6) U (i.p.) or 7 x 10(5) U (i.c.v.), but increases were found following i.c.v. administration of high doses of Rat-IFN-alpha (10(3) and 5 x 10(3) U). The inhibitory effects of all of the IFN-alpha preparations tested were antagonized by naloxone, but the stimulatory effects of 5 x 10(3) U Rat-IFN-alpha were not. Injections of rHu-IFN-alpha 2A (10(4) U i.p.) to urethane-anesthetized rats decreased the electrical activity of the majority of hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus neurons tested, including putative corticotropin-releasing factor-secreting neurons antidromically identified as projecting to the median eminence. These electrophysiological data suggest that the decreases in HPA activity evoked by IFN-alpha are mediated by a rapid inhibitory effect at the level of the corticotropin-releasing factor-secreting neurons. The sensitivity of many central nervous system effects of IFN-alpha to mu-receptor antagonists strongly suggests that the cytokine serves as an endogenous opioid agonist arising from the immune system. In support of this hypothesis we have shown that SH-SY5Y human neuroblastoma cells, differentiated with retinoic acid treatment to express predominantly mu-receptors, are sensitive to rHu-IFN-alpha 2A in vitro. This sensitivity took the form of a dose-dependent inhibition of forskolin-stimulated adenylyl cyclase activity. The data yielded an IC50 (95% confidence intervals) value of 7.93 (5.70-11.04) nM for this effect. Neither undifferentiated SH-SY5Y cells nor NG108-15 mouse neuroblastoma x rat glioma hybrid cells (expressing delta-receptors) were affected by rHu-IFN-alpha 2A.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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