Fever induction pathways: evidence from responses to systemic or local cytokine formation

Braz J Med Biol Res. 2001 Mar;34(3):301-14. doi: 10.1590/s0100-879x2001000300003.


The immune and central nervous systems are functionally connected and interacting. The concept that the immune signaling to the brain which induces fever during infection and inflammation is mediated by circulating cytokines has been traditionally accepted. Administration of bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induces the appearance of a so-termed "cytokine cascade" in the circulation more or less concomitantly to the developing febrile response. Also, LPS-like fever can be induced by systemic administration of key cytokines (IL-1 beta, TNF-alpha, and others). However, anti-cytokine strategies against IL-1 beta or TNF-alpha along with systemic injections of LPS frequently lead to attenuation of the later stages of the febrile response but not of the initial phase of fever, indicating that cytokines are rather involved in the maintenance than in the early induction of fever. Within the last years experimental evidence has accumulated indicating the existence of neural transport pathways of immune signals to the brain. Because subdiaphragmatic vagotomy prevents or attenuates fever in response to intraperitoneal or intravenous injections of LPS, a role for vagal afferent nerve fibers in fever induction has been proposed. Also other sensory nerves may participate in the manifestation of febrile responses under certain experimental conditions. Thus, injection of a small dose of LPS into an artificial subcutaneous chamber results in fever and formation of cytokines within the inflamed tissue around the site of injection. This febrile response can be blocked in part by injection of a local anesthetic into the subcutaneous chamber, indicating a participation of cutaneous afferent nerve signals in the manifestation of fever in this model. In conclusion, humoral signals and an inflammatory stimulation of afferent sensory nerves can participate in the generation and maintenance of a febrile response.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis*
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Fever / chemically induced
  • Fever / physiopathology*
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Immune System / physiology
  • Injections, Intra-Arterial
  • Injections, Intraperitoneal
  • Interleukin-1 / pharmacology
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Neuroimmunomodulation
  • Neurons, Afferent / drug effects
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Skin / innervation
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology
  • Vagotomy
  • Vagus Nerve / physiology


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-1
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha