Lipopolysaccharide suppresses activation of the tuberomammillary histaminergic system concomitant with behavior: a novel target of immune-sensory pathways

Neuroscience. 2008 Mar 3;152(1):273-87. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2007.10.042.


Infection and inflammation strongly inhibit a variety of behaviors, including exploration, social interaction, and food intake. The mechanisms that underlie sickness behavior remain elusive, but appear to involve fatigue and a state of hypo-arousal. Because histaminergic neurons in the ventral tuberomammillary nucleus of the hypothalamus (VTM) play a crucial role in the mediation of alertness and behavioral arousal, we investigated whether the histaminergic system represents a target for immune activation and, if so, whether modulation by ascending medullary immune-sensitive projections represents a possible mechanism. Rats were injected intraperitoneally with either the pro-inflammatory stimulus lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or saline, and exposed to one of various behavioral tests that would induce motivated behavior (exploration, play behavior, social interaction, sweetened milk consumption). Upon kill, brains were processed for c-Fos and histidine decarboxylase immunoreactivity. LPS treatment reduced behavioral activity and blocked behavioral test-associated c-Fos induction in histaminergic neurons of the VTM. These effects of LPS were prevented by prior inactivation of the caudal medullary dorsal vagal complex (DVC) with a local anesthetic. To determine whether LPS-responsive brainstem projection neurons might provide a link from the DVC to the VTM, the tracer Fluorogold was iontophoresed into the VTM a week prior to experiment. Retrogradely labeled neurons that expressed c-Fos in response to LPS treatment included catecholaminergic neurons within the nucleus of the solitary tract and ventrolateral medulla. These findings support the hypothesis that the histaminergic system represents an important component in the neurocircuitry relevant for sickness behavior that is linked to ascending pathways originating in the lower brainstem.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / immunology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Histamine / metabolism*
  • Histidine Decarboxylase / biosynthesis
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Inflammation / chemically induced
  • Inflammation / physiopathology*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / toxicity
  • Male
  • Neuroimmunomodulation / physiology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / biosynthesis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Histamine
  • Histidine Decarboxylase