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Mol Psychiatry. 2007 Apr;12(4):408-17. Epub 2006 Nov 21.

Endogenous glucocorticoids protect against TNF-alpha-induced increases in anxiety-like behavior in virally infected mice.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA , USA.


Endogenous glucocorticoids restrain proinflammatory cytokine responses to immune challenges such as viral infection. In addition, proinflammatory cytokines induce behavioral alterations including changes in locomotor/exploratory activity. Accordingly, we examined proinflammatory cytokines and open-field behavior in virally infected mice rendered glucocorticoid deficient by adrenalectomy (ADX). Mice were infected with murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV), and open-field behavior (36 h post-infection) and plasma concentrations of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha and interleukin (IL)-6 (42 h post-infection) were assessed. Compared to sham-ADX-MCMV-infected animals, ADX-MCMV-infected mice exhibited significant reductions in total distance moved, number of center entries, and time spent in center. These behavioral alterations were accompanied by significantly higher plasma concentrations of TNF-alpha and IL-6, both of which were correlated with degree of behavioral change. To examine the role of TNF-alpha in these behavioral alterations, open-field behavior was compared in wild-type (WT) and TNF-R1-knockout (KO), ADX-MCMV-infected mice. TNF-R1-KO mice exhibited significantly attenuated decreases in number of rearings, number of center entries and time spent in center, but not distance moved, which correlated with plasma IL-6. Given the potential role of brain cytokines in these findings, mRNA expression of TNF-alpha, IL-1 and IL-6 was assessed in various brain regions. Although MCMV induced increases in proinflammatory cytokine mRNA throughout the brain (especially in ADX animals), no remarkable differences were found between WT and TNF-R1-KO mice. These results demonstrate that endogenous glucocorticoids restrain proinflammatory cytokine responses to viral infection and their impact on locomotor/exploratory activity. Moreover, TNF-alpha appears to mediate cytokine-induced changes in open-field behaviors, especially those believed to reflect anxiety.

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