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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1998 May 1;840:577-85.

The role of cytokines in infection-related behavior.

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Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Louisiana State University Medical Center, Shreveport 71103, USA.


Infections are associated with a specific behavioral pattern that includes hypomotility, hypophagia, increased sleep, decreased libido, and decreased exploration. This behavioral response is considered adaptive and important for the survival of the animal. A similar behavioral pattern was observed following treatment with endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide [LPS]) and cytokines, such as interleukin-1 (IL-1). Because the secretion of these cytokines is induced by LPS and infections, it is possible that they mediate the behavioral responses to infection. We have studied ingestive behavior and locomotor activity in mice following infection with influenza virus, or injection of LPS, IL-1, or IL-6. A lethal dose of influenza virus, LPS, IL-1a and IL-1b each decreased the intake of sweetened condensed milk and 24-hour food pellet intake and decreased locomotor activity. Mouse IL-6 was ineffective. A sublethal dose of influenza virus decreased food pellet intake and locomotor activity, but did not significantly alter milk intake. Indomethacin prevented the behavioral responses to IL-1, and attenuated those to LPS, but had only a very small effect on those to influenza virus. Similar results were obtained with the IL-1-receptor antagonist (IL-1ra); it completely prevented the responses to IL-1, attenuated those to LPS, but, even after chronic high dose administration, attenuated the effects of influenza virus infection only slightly. Our results suggest that while IL-1 may play an important role in the responses to infection, IL-6 does not. Moreover, IL-1 cannot be the only factor contributing to the altered behavior of LPS-injected or influenza virus-infected mice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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