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Brain Behav Immun. 2011 Mar;25(3):468-82. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2010.11.008. Epub 2010 Nov 18.

Effects of stressors and immune activating agents on peripheral and central cytokines in mouse strains that differ in stressor responsivity.

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Institute of Neuroscience, Carleton University, Canada.


The impact of inflammatory immune activation on behavioral and physiological processes varies with antecedent stressor experiences. We assessed whether immune activation would differentially influence such outcomes as a function of stressor reactivity related to genetic differences. To this end, we assessed the influence of a social stressor (exposure to a dominant mouse) in combination with an acute immune challenge on behavior and on peripheral and central cytokines in stressor-reactive BALB/cByJ mice and the less reactive C57BL/6ByJ strain. As C57BL/6ByJ and BALB/cByJ mice are highly T helper type-1 (Th1) and Th2 responsive, respectively, the stressor effects were assessed in response to different challenges, namely the viral analogue poly I:C and the bacterial endotoxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS). The stressor enhanced the effects of LPS on sickness behaviors and plasma corticosterone particularly in BALB/cByJ mice, whereas the effects of poly I:C, which primarily affects Th1 processes, were not augmented by the stressor. As well, the stressor increased circulating cytokines in LPS treated C57BL/6ByJ mice, whereas the effects of poly I:C were diminished. Finally, like circulating cytokines, mRNA expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines within the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus varied with the mouse strain and with the stressor experience, and with the specific cytokine considered. Together, the experiments indicated that the impact of stressors vary with the nature of the immune challenge to which animals had been exposed. Moreover, given the diversity of the stressor effects on central and peripheral processes, it seems likely that the cytokine changes, HPA activity and sickness operate through independent mechanisms.

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