Corticotropin releasing factor-1 receptor antagonism alters the biochemical, but not behavioral effects of repeated interleukin-1β administration

Clare J. Wilhelm, Aaron Murphy-Crews, Daniel J. Menasco, Marilyn S. Huckans, Jennifer M. Loftis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Activation of the immune system via administration of cytokines is used for the treatment of chronic viral infections such as hepatitis C and for cancers resistant to radiotherapy. Cytokine-based treatments induce a range of "sickness" behaviors (e.g. depression, anxiety, pain, anorexia, and fatigue). Activation of the hypothalamic pituitary-adrenal axis via the induction of corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) may underlie these unwanted side effects. This study used repeated systemic injections of the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1β (IL-1β) to model the sickness behaviors and biochemical effects of immune system activation. We assessed the ability of CRF type I receptor (CRF 1) antagonism to reduce biochemical and behavioral signs of sickness induced by IL-1β treatment. Forty Wistar rats were assigned to one of four groups: 1) saline + vehicle; 2) saline + DMP904 (CRF 1 antagonist); 3) IL-1β + vehicle; 4) IL-1β + DMP904. Rats received intraperitoneal injections of either DMP904 or vehicle and of IL-1β or saline for six days. Sickness behavior was evaluated using body weight assessments and forced swim testing (FST). Blood and brain samples were collected to measure cytokine, p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), and phospho-p38 MAPK levels using multiplex techniques. There were significant reductions in body weights and FST immobility times associated with IL-1β administration. Rats administered IL-1β had significantly higher serum levels of IL-10, but not interferon-γ. Within the hippocampus, IL-1β reduced levels of p38 MAPK, but had no impact on levels of phospho-p38 MAPK except in the presence of DMP904. When administered alone, DMP904 had no significant effect on p38 MAPK or phospho-p38 MAPK in the hippocampus, but when given with IL-1β led to increased phosphorylation of p38 MAPK. IL-1β and DMP904 reduced levels of p38 MAPK within the hypothalamus, while co-administration of IL-1β and DMP904 abolished the effects of either drug alone. IL-1β decreased immobility time in the FST, and led to reductions in body weight, changes in serum cytokine levels and p38 MAPK regulation within the hippocampus and hypothalamus. DMP904 blocked some of the neurochemical effects of IL-1β, but did not impact the behavioral measures, or serum cytokines. Thus, additional studies will be needed to determine whether CRF 1 antagonism is an effective treatment for cytokine-induced sickness. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Anxiety and Depression'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-321
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Corticotropin releasing factor
  • Cytokines
  • Forced swim test
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Sickness behavior
  • Weight regulation
  • p38 MAPK

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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