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Eur J Neurosci. 1998 Dec;10(12):3664-72.

Behavioural characterization of interleukin-6 overexpressing or deficient mice during agonistic encounters.

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Section of Behavioural Pathophysiology, Lab. FOS, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.


Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a cytokine released by activated immune cells which has been shown to affect brain function. In this experiment aggressive and affiliative behaviour exhibited during agonistic encounters by transgenic male mice either not expressing (IL-6 -/-) or overexpressing (NSE-hIL-6) IL-6 in the central nervous system was investigated. All subjects were isolated for 24 days before the aggressive encounter and were 52 days old at the time of testing. Subjects were placed for 5 consecutive days in a neutral cage for 15 min with an opponent of the Balb/c strain that had been previously isolated for the same amount of time. The first and the last test sessions were videotaped to evaluate the first approach and the establishment of the social role, respectively. A number of behavioural categories were later scored. When compared with wild-type controls, IL-6 -/- mice showed a higher degree of aggressive behaviour as indicated by a higher frequency of Offensive Upright Posture, an effect more pronounced on the fifth encounter. On the contrary, NSE-hIL-6 subjects showed a tendency to be more involved in affiliative-type social interactions, displaying a higher frequency and duration of behaviours such as Anogenital, Nose or Body Sniff. IL-6 -/- mice showed a clear tendency to exhibit less affiliative interactions compared with their controls while dopamine levels were found to be modified in a number of brain regions in these mice. Overall, these data suggest that IL-6 affects both aggressive and affiliative-type interactions, although the behaviour of the NSE-hIL-6 subjects was less affected than that of the IL-6 -/- group. The effects of the genetic background of the animal in screening the outcome of gene manipulations on behaviour are also discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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