Translational psychiatry

Evidence for sustained elevation of IL-6 in the CNS as a key contributor of depressive-like phenotypes.

PMID 23212583


There is compelling clinical literature implicating a role for cytokines in the pathophysiology of major depressive disorder (MDD). Interleukin-6 (IL-6) and interleukin-1β (IL-1β) are pleiotropic inflammatory cytokines that have been reported to be elevated in patients with MDD. The present studies were undertaken to investigate the relationship between IL-6 and IL-1β in animal models of depressive-like behavior. Analysis of brain tissue homogenates in the cortex of rats subjected to chronic stress paradigms revealed elevated levels of IL-6 protein in the absence of elevations in IL-1β. Central administration of recombinant mouse IL-6 produced depressive-like phenotypes in mice, which were not accompanied by IL-1β-induced increases in the brain tissue or IL-1β-related sickness behavior typical of a general central nervous system inflammatory response. Systemic administration of fluoxetine in the presence of centrally administered IL-6 failed to produce the expected antidepressant-like response in mice relative to sham-infused controls. Further, administration of fluoxetine to mice with endogenous overexpression of brain IL-6 (MRL/MpJ-Fas(LPR/LPR) (LPR mice)) failed to produce the expected antidepressant-like effect relative to fluoxetine-treated control mice (MRL/MpJ(+/+)). Interestingly, blockade of IL-6 trans-signaling by coadministration of a gp130/Fc monomer or an anti-mouse IL-6 antibody with IL-6 prevented the IL-6-induced increases in immobility time as well as attenuated IL-6-induced increases of protein in the cortex. Taken together, these data indicate that elevations in IL-6 may have a pathophysiological role underlying depression and more specifically resistance to current classes of antidepressant medications and suggest that modulation of the IL-6 signaling pathway may have therapeutic potential for treatment-resistant depression.