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J Neurosci. 1997 May 1;17(9):3262-73.

Inhibition of tumor necrosis factor-alpha action within the CNS markedly reduces the plasma adrenocorticotropin response to peripheral local inflammation in rats.

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The Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology, The Salk Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


The present study tested the hypothesis that the cytokine tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) is an important CNS mediator of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis response to local inflammation in the rat. Recombinant murine TNF-alpha administered directly into the cerebroventricles of normal rats produced a dose-dependent increase in plasma adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) concentration. Local inflammation induced by the intramuscular injection of turpentine (50 microl/100 gm body weight) also produced an increase in plasma ACTH, peaking at 160-200 pg/ml at 7.5 hr after injection (compared with 10-30 pg/ml in controls). Intracerebroventricular pretreatment with either 5 microl of anti-TNF-alpha antiserum or 1-50 microg of soluble TNF receptor construct (rhTNFR:Fc) reduced the peak of the ACTH response to local inflammation by 62-72%. In contrast, intravenous treatment with the same doses of anti-TNF-alpha or rhTNFR:Fc had no significant effect on the ACTH response to local inflammation. Although these data indicated an action of TNF-alpha specifically within the brain, no increase in brain TNF-alpha protein (measured by bioassay) or mRNA (assessed using either in situ hybridization histochemical or semi-quantitative RT-PCR procedures) was demonstrable during the onset or peak of HPA activation produced by local inflammation. Furthermore, increased passage of TNF-alpha from blood to brain seems unlikely, because inflammation did not affect plasma TNF-alpha biological activity. Collectively these data demonstrate that TNF-alpha action within the brain is critical to the elaboration of the HPA axis response to local inflammation in the rat, but they indicate that increases in cerebral TNF-alpha synthesis are not a necessary accompaniment.

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