The Journal of experimental medicine

TAK1 in brain endothelial cells mediates fever and lethargy.

PMID 22143887


Systemic inflammation affects the brain, resulting in fever, anorexia, lethargy, and activation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. How peripheral inflammatory signals reach the brain is still a matter of debate. One possibility is that, in response to inflammatory stimuli, brain endothelial cells in proximity to the thermoregulatory centers produce cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) and release prostaglandin E2, causing fever and sickness behavior. We show that expression of the MAP kinase kinase kinase TAK1 in brain endothelial cells is needed for interleukin 1β (IL-1β)-induced COX-2 production. Exploiting the selective expression of the thyroxine transporter Slco1c1 in brain endothelial cells, we generated a mouse line allowing inducible deletion of Tak1 specifically in brain endothelium. Mice lacking the Tak1 gene in brain endothelial cells showed a blunted fever response and reduced lethargy upon intravenous injection of the endogenous pyrogen IL-1β. In conclusion, we demonstrate that TAK1 in brain endothelial cells induces COX-2, most likely by activating p38 MAPK and c-Jun, and is necessary for fever and sickness behavior.