Cytokine signals propagate through the brain

Mol Psychiatry. 2000 Nov;5(6):604-15. doi: 10.1038/


Interleukin-1 (IL-1) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha) are proinflammatory cytokines that are constitutively expressed in healthy, adult brain where they mediate normal neural functions such as sleep. They are neuromodulators expressed by and acting on neurons and glia. IL-1 and TNFalpha expression is upregulated in several important diseases/disorders. Upregulation of IL-1 and/or TNFalpha expression, elicited centrally or systemically, propagates through brain parenchyma following specific spatio-temporal patterns. We propose that cytokine signals propagate along neuronal projections and extracellular diffusion pathways by molecular cascades that need to be further elucidated. This elucidation is a prerequisite for better understanding of reciprocal interactions between nervous, endocrine and immune systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology*
  • Brain Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-1 / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / physiology*


  • Interleukin-1
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha