Journal of neuroimmunology

The expression of interleukin-6 and its receptor in various brain regions and their roles in exploratory behavior and stress responses.

PMID 26025052


We examined the involvement of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and its receptor IL-6Rα on behavior and stress responses in mice. In the open field, both wild-type (WT) and IL-6 deficient mice displayed similar levels of locomotor activity; however, IL-6 deficient mice spent more time in the central part of the arena compared to control WT mice. After behavioral testing, mice were subjected to stress and then sacrificed. The levels of IL-6 and its receptor in their brains were determined. Immunohistochemical labeling of brain sections for IL-6 showed a high level of expression in the subventricular zone of the lateral ventricles and in the border zone of the third and fourth ventricles. Interestingly, 95% of the IL-6-expressing cells had an astrocytic phenotype, and the remaining 5% were microglial cells. A low level of IL-6 expression was observed in the olfactory bulb, hypothalamus, hippocampus, cerebral cortex, cerebellum, midbrain and several brainstem structures. The vast majority of IL-6-expressing cells in these structures had a neuronal phenotype. Stress increased the number of IL-6-immunoreactive astrocytes and microglial cells. The levels of the IL-6Rα receptor were increased in the hypothalamus of stressed mice. Therefore, in this study, we describe for the first time the distribution of IL-6 in various types of brain cells and in previously unreported regions, such as the subventricular zone of the lateral ventricle. Moreover, we provide data on regional distribution and expression within specific cell phenotypes. This highly differential expression of IL-6 indicates its specific roles in the regulation of neuronal and astrocytic functions, in addition to the roles of IL-6 and its receptor IL-6Rα in stress responses.