Current perspectives on behavioural and cellular mechanisms of illness anorexia

Int Rev Psychiatry. 2005 Dec;17(6):451-9. doi: 10.1080/02646830500381450.


Here we review our current understanding of the integration of immune, neural, metabolic and endocrine signals involved in the generation of anorexia during acute infection, with the focus on anorexia elicited by peripheral administration of bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS). We chose to limit this review to peripheral LPS-anorexia because the mechanisms underlying this response may also be valid for anorexia during other types of acute or chronic infections, with slight differences in the duration of anorexia, levels of circulating concentrations of pro-inflammatory cytokines and hypermetabolism. Evidence so far indicates that LPS-anorexia is a complex response beneficial to host defence that involves both peripheral and central action of pro-inflammatory cytokines, other immune factors, such as prostanoids, and neurotransmitters, such as serotonin. One interesting characteristic of LPS-anorexia is its sexual differentiation, an aspect mainly mediated by the gonadal hormone estradiol. Understanding the behavioural and molecular mechanisms of LPS-anorexia may even provide useful leads for identifying mechanisms of eating disorders in humans.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anorexia / immunology*
  • Bacterial Infections / immunology*
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Estradiol / physiology
  • Female
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / immunology*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / immunology
  • Male
  • Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Psychoneuroimmunology*


  • Cytokines
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Estradiol