Cytokine dysregulation in aged horses and horses with pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction

J Vet Intern Med. Mar-Apr 2008;22(2):436-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-1676.2008.0076.x.


Background: Equine pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) is the result of a loss of dopaminergic inhibition of the pars intermedia secondary to neurodegeneration of periventricular hypothalamic neurons. The pathologic events contributing to development of neurodegeneration or clinical signs in equids with PPID are unknown. Chronic inflammation may contribute to initiation or progression of PPID.

Hypothesis: Horses with PPID have a distinct systemic cytokine profile compared with that of normal adult or aged horses. The cytokine profile of healthy aged horses differs from that of adult horses.

Animals: Aged horses with PPID, healthy aged-matched controls, and adult controls (n = 14 per group).

Methods: Total leukocyte cytokine expression was determined by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha plasma concentration was determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) TNF-alpha response after endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide [LPS]) treatment was assessed by ELISA.

Results: Aged healthy horses had increased expression of interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, and interferon-gamma as well as PBMC TNF-alpha release after LPS stimulation compared with healthy adult horses. In contrast, aged horses with PPID had increased IL-8 expression, but expression of other cytokines was similar to that of healthy adult horses, not age-matched controls.

Conclusions and clinical importance: Aged horses show evidence of a proinflammatory state that may contribute to development of age-associated diseases. Horses with PPID have increased expression of IL-8, which may influence the ability of horses with PPID to respond to bacterial pathogens. The general decrease in proinflammatory cytokine expression observed in horses with PPID may be the outcome of high plasma concentrations of anti-inflammatory hormones.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Horse Diseases / metabolism*
  • Horses
  • Pituitary Diseases / metabolism
  • Pituitary Diseases / physiopathology
  • Pituitary Diseases / veterinary*
  • Pituitary Gland / physiopathology
  • Pituitary Gland, Intermediate / metabolism*
  • Pituitary Gland, Intermediate / physiopathology
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / blood
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha