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Int Immunopharmacol. 2004 Feb;4(2):185-92.

Stimulatory effect of antidepressants on the production of IL-6.

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Department of Endocrinology, Institute of Pharmacology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Smetna 12, PL 31-343 Kraków, Poland.


A body of evidence indicates that the therapeutic activity of antidepressants is connected with their modulatory effect on the inflammatory response system and cell-mediated immunity. The present study was carried out to examine the effects of antidepressant agents, such as imipramne, venlafaxine, l-5-hydroxytryptophan, fluoxetine and a combination of l-5-hydroxytryptophan and fluoxetine, on the production of the pleotrophic cytokines TNF-alpha and IL-6. Diluted whole blood from fluoxetine-treated patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD) (mean age: 50.6+/-3.9 years), age-matched healthy controls (mean age: 51.6+/-1.7 years) and younger healthy volunteers (mean age: 35.4+/-1.7 years) was stimulated with phytohemagglutinin (PHA) and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) for 48 h with or without incubation with the antidepressants at 10(-6) and 10(-5) M. The major findings of this study are: (1). imipramine and venlafaxine (at the higher concentration), 5-HTP (at lower and higher concentrations) and a combination of 5-HTP and fluoxetine (both at the lower concentration) increased the production of IL-6; (2). all drugs used did not affect TNF-alpha production. IL-6 production was significantly higher in depressed patients than in age-matched volunteers, whereas TNF-alpha production was significantly higher in older volunteers than in younger ones. We speculate that the therapeutic activity of these antidepressants is at least partly connected with their effect on the cytokine network and IL-6 production.

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