Peripheral innate immune challenge exaggerated microglia activation, increased the number of inflammatory CNS macrophages, and prolonged social withdrawal in socially defeated mice

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012 Sep;37(9):1491-505. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2012.02.003. Epub 2012 Mar 2.


Repeated social defeat (RSD) activates neuroendocrine pathways that have a significant influence on immunity and behavior. Previous studies from our lab indicate that RSD enhances the inflammatory capacity of CD11b⁺ cells in the brain and promotes anxiety-like behavior in an interleukin (IL)-1 and β-adrenergic receptor-dependent manner. The purpose of this study was to determine the degree to which mice subjected to RSD were more responsive to a secondary immune challenge. Therefore, RSD or control (HCC) mice were injected with saline or lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and activation of brain CD11b⁺ cells and behavioral responses were determined. Peripheral LPS (0.5 mg/kg) injection caused an extended sickness response with exaggerated weight loss and prolonged social withdrawal in socially defeated mice. LPS injection also amplified mRNA expression of IL-1β, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), and CD14 in enriched CD11b⁺ cells isolated from socially defeated mice. In addition, IL-1β mRNA levels in enriched CD11b⁺ cells remained elevated in socially defeated mice 24 h and 72 h after LPS. Moreover, microglia and CNS macrophages isolated from socially defeated mice had the highest CD14 expression after LPS injection. Both social defeat and LPS injection increased the percentage of CD11b⁺/CD45(high) macrophages in the brain and the number of inflammatory macrophages (CD11b⁺/CD45(high)/CCR2⁺) was highest in RSD-LPS mice. Anxiety-like behavior was increased by social defeat, but was not exacerbated by the LPS challenge. Nonetheless, reduced locomotor activity and increased social withdrawal were still present in socially defeated mice 72 h after LPS. Last, LPS-induced microglia activation was most evident in the hippocampus of socially defeated mice. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that repeated social defeat enhanced the neuroinflammatory response and caused prolonged sickness following innate immune challenge.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / immunology
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cell Count
  • Dominance-Subordination*
  • Immunity, Innate / drug effects
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Interleukin-1beta / metabolism
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Microglia / drug effects
  • Microglia / immunology*
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II / metabolism
  • Social Isolation*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II