Although receptors for the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1 have long been known to be expressed in the brain, their role in fever and behavioural depression observed during the acute phase response (APR) to tissue infection remains unclear. This may in part be due to the fact that interleukin-1 in the brain is bioactive only several hours after peripheral administration of bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS). To study the role of cerebral interleukin-1 action in temperature and behavioural changes, and activation of brain structures during the APR, interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra; 100 μg) was infused into the lateral brain ventricle 4 h after intraperitoneal (i.p.) LPS injection (250 μg/kg) in rats. I.p. LPS administration induced interleukin-1β (IL-1β) production in systemic circulation as well as in brain circumventricular organs and the choroid plexus. Intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) infusion of IL-1ra 4 h after i.p. LPS injection attenuated the reduction in social interaction, a cardinal sign of behavioural depression during sickness, and c-Fos expression in the amygdala and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. However, LPS-induced fever, rises in plasma corticosterone, body weight loss and c-Fos expression in the hypothalamus and caudal brainstem were not altered by i.c.v. infusion of IL-1ra. These findings, together with our previous observations showing that i.c.v. infused IL-1ra diffuses throughout perivascular spaces, where macrophages express interleukin-1 receptors, can be interpreted to suggest that circulating or locally produced brain IL-1β acts on these cells to bring about behavioural depression and activation of limbic structures during the APR after peripheral LPS administration.