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Plasma Cytokine Levels in Migraineurs and Controls


  • Francesco Perini MD,

  • Giovanni D'Andrea MD,

  • Elisabetta Galloni PhD,

  • Francesco Pignatelli MD,

  • Giuseppe Billo MD,

  • Sabrina Alba PhD,

  • Gennaro Bussone MD,

  • Vito Toso MD

  • From the Centri Cefalee e Malattie Cerebrovascolari, Ospedale S. Bortolo Ulss 6 Vicenza, Italy (Drs. Perini, Pignatelli, Billo, Alba, and Toso); Villa Margherita Arcugnano (VI), Italy (Dr. D'Andrea); and Istituto C. Besta Milano, Italy (Dr. Bussone).

Address all correspondence to Dr. Francesco Perini, Centro Cefalee e Malattie Cerebrovascolari, Neurologia Ospedale S. Bortolo, Ulss 6, Viale Rodolfi 37, 36100 Vicenza, Italy.


Background.—The vasoactive peptide, calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), is released from primary afferent neurons in the trigemino-vascular circulation during migraine headache. CGRP at physiological concentrations and possibly via stimulation of its selective receptors on T-cells, triggers the secretion of cytokines. Cytokines play an important role in several physiological and pathological settings such as immunology, inflammation, and pain.

Objective.—To investigate plasma levels of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines in migraineurs and healthy controls.

Methods.—We studied 25 migraine patients, during and outside attacks, and 18 healthy control subjects measuring plasma levels of IL-6, IL-10, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα), IL-4, IL-1β, and IL-2 using ELISA.

Results.—Circulating levels of IL-10, TNFα, and IL-1β during attacks were significantly higher in comparison to their levels outside attacks (P= .0003, P= .03, and P= .05, respectively). IL-10 and TNF serum levels were higher in patients studied soon after headache onset and lower over time (P= .004 and P= .05).

Conclusion.—Our results suggest that TNFα, IL-1β, and IL-10 may be involved in the pathogenesis of migraine attacks.