Cytokine Activation of the HPA Axis



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    1. Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, Louisiana 71103, USA
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a Address for correspondence: Dr. Adrian J. Dunn, Department of Pharmacology, LSU-HSC, P.O. Box 33932, Shreveport, LA 71130-3932. Voice: 318-675-7850; fax: 318-675-7857.


Abstract: The observation that administration of interleukin-1 (IL-1) to animals activates the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis stimulated great interest in the significance and mechanism of this response, and in whether other cytokines have similar activities. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) share HPA-activating activity, although they are less potent and effective than IL-1, whereas IL-2 and interferon α(IFNα) lack activity. Small increases in body temperature occur in response to IL-1, IL-6 and TNFα, but these changes are prevented by inhibitors of cyclooxygenase (COX) and do not appear to be related to the HPA-activation. The rapid HPA-activating effects of IL-1 are impaired by COX inhibitors, but the more prolonged HPA activation associated with intraperitoneal injections is not affected, indicating multiple mechanisms for IL-1-induced HPA activation. The HPA response to IL-6 is not sensitive to COX inhibitors, but that to TNFα appears to be. The HPA-activating activity of IL-1 is associated with increases in the apparent release of brain noradrenaline (NA) and serotonin (5-HT), but not dopamine, as well as with increased brain tryptophan. The NA changes, but not those in serotonin metabolism and tryptophan, are prevented by COX inhibitors. IL-6 has effects on serotonin and tryptophan like those of IL-1, but no detected effect on NA. TNFα has some effect on NA and tryptophan, but only at relatively high doses. IFNα lacks activity on these neurochemicals. Manipulation of noradrenergic, but not serotonergic systems alters the IL-1-induced HPA activation, suggesting the involvement of NA. However, brain NA does not appear to be essential for HPA activation in mice.