Sub-pyrogenic systemic inflammation impacts on brain and behavior, independent of cytokines

Brain Behav Immun. 2007 Aug;21(6):836-50. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2007.01.012. Epub 2007 Mar 23.


Systemic inflammation impacts on the brain and gives rise to behavioral changes, often referred to as 'sickness behavior'. These symptoms are thought to be mainly mediated by pro-inflammatory cytokines. We have investigated the communication pathways between the immune system and brain following sub-pyrogenic inflammation. Low grade systemic inflammation was induced in mice using lipopolysaccharide (LPS); 1-100 microg/kg to mimic aspects of bacterial infection. Changes in fever, open-field activity, burrowing and consumption of glucose solution were assessed and immune activation was studied in the periphery and brain by measuring cytokine production, and immunohistochemistry to study changes in immune cell phenotype. Sub-pyrogenic inflammation resulted in changes in a species-typical, untrained behavior (burrowing) that depends on the integrity of the hippocampus. Increased expression of cytokines was observed in the periphery and selected regions of the brain which coincided with changes in behavior. However, peripheral neutralization of LPS-induced pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1beta, IL-6 and TNF-alpha did not abrogate the LPS-induced behavioral changes nor affect CNS cytokine synthesis. In contrast, pretreatment of mice with indomethacin completely prevented LPS-induced behavior changes, without affecting cytokine levels. Taken together, these experiments suggest a key role for prostaglandins, rather than cytokines, in communicating to the brain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Infections / immunology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Body Temperature
  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Fever / immunology
  • Hippocampus / immunology
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Lipopolysaccharides / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Neuroimmunomodulation / immunology
  • Neuroimmunomodulation / physiology*
  • Prostaglandins / immunology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Species Specificity
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / metabolism
  • Vagus Nerve / immunology
  • Vagus Nerve / physiology


  • Cytokines
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Prostaglandins
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4